January 11, 2021
Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry has announced a new program that will encourage Canadian companies to promote diversity in their workplace. Dubbed the “50-30 Challenge”, this initiative rewards participating organizations with access to a variety of government programs including a digital toolkit, industry specific resource assistance, and connections to specialized partners. The program challenges participating companies to demonstrate 50% gender parity and 30% inclusion of underrepresented groups in their directorship and senior management positions. The Canadian government has provided examples of groups that are underrepresented in the corporate sphere, which include racialized persons, people who identify as LGBTQ2, people living with disabilities, and First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Bains expressed his views on workplace equality by stating that “corporate Canada should look like Canada”, and went on to explain the government’s use of these new incentives to create greater diversity in corporate positions: “We’re using the government as a platform to encourage competition within the market, apply a little bit of peer pressure, and provide resources for the smaller companies. Then the next phase is for companies that achieve that goal, they’re able to do business with the government of Canada in a preferential manner and get preferential access to government programming.”
The federal government has shown its support for this program by committing $33 million over 3 years to help and encourage companies to sign on. These funds will be put towards development of an online toolkit that participating companies can use to access workplace diversity training programs and industry mentorship. The Standards Council of Canada, a Crown corporation, will serve as an oversight body, and will require companies to go through a certification process before accessing the benefits of the 50-30 Challenge.
This initiative follows recent corporate law changes implemented through Bill C-25, which concern the diversity disclosure of companies governed by the Canadian Business Corporations Act. The bill requires, as of January 1, 2020, that such companies disclose the representation of various groups (including women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities) on their board of directors and in senior management positions. Minister Bains has said that while Bill C-25 has lead to progress, as a country “we can do better”. To that end, the new 50-30 Challenge has already seen 470 Canadian organizations sign on to take part in the program and improve their diversity practices.
Companies that wish to take part in this program can do so by filling out the 50-30 Challenge Form.
Author: Sasha Seeber