An equitable workplace is not only about pay and employment equity, or inclusion and diversity in the workforce, but it also is about creating an environment that marginalized workers can thrive without discrimination and violence. Everyone holds a varying degree of privilege and power, it is not black-and-white nor quantifiable by numbers. An equitable workplace does not overlook the individual differences, but actively confronts the complex dynamics. We must start by acknowledging and actively countering systemic inequalities such as colonialism, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, classism, ageism, and various other forms of discrimination.
The union plays an important and crucial role. Collective agreements can be used to create formalized anti-oppression and equitable principles in the workplace. Even so, we must actively combat and unpack the systems of oppression.
This webpage provides an overview of the various aspects of an equitable workplace:
- Anti-Racist Workplace
- Feminist and Gender-Sensitive Workplace
- Culturally Sensitive Workplace
- An Accessible Workplace
Marginalization manifests itself in various ways in the workplace, including but not limited to:
- Discriminatory hiring, pay, and promotions;
- Microaggression can be verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward marginalized groups;
- Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories;
- Tone policing is a tactic employed to discredit a person and their statement by attacking the tone used, rather than the statement itself.
There is so much more to an equitable workplace than what is listed here, but marginalization also occurs for those with varying immigration status, gender identities, sexual orientation, age, education level, income level, etc. This webpage serves as an introductory information resource, we hope you can continue to read and learn about equity in the workforce. Additional information is available, we hope you will find them interesting and informative.
Racism is defined as: the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another by the Merriam-Webster dictionary
An anti-racist workplace will not only condemn racism, but also actively confront the structural, systemic, and institutionalized racism. It is not only about hosting anti-oppression workshops or creating anti-racism policies, it also demands an active effort to confront the uncomfortable. While racialized staff members are the victims of racism, they are not the only people who are responsible to create an anti-racist workplace. It is up to everyone to hold themselves and each other accountable.
Many people hold the misunderstanding that racism is only perpetrated by bad people. In reality, acts of racism happen, regardless of whether the person was conscious of their harmful behaviour. Even in an anti-racist workplace, acts of racism may occur, but there would be trauma and equity informed tactics in place.
- Tools, Training and Resources to Combat Racism & Discrimination in the Workplace (Government of Canada)
- Anti-Racism Resources (Public Service Alliance of Canada)
- Surfacing racism in the workplace: Qualitative and quantitative evidence of systemic discrimination (Ontario Human Rights Commission)
Feminism is defined as: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes by the Merriam-Webster dictionary
Gender-Sensitive is defined as: the process by which people are made aware of how gender plays a role in life through their treatment of others by Wikipedia
A feminist and gender-sensitive workplace would prioritize gender equality, ensuring that everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Though traditionally feminist labour organizing has focused on women’s empowerment in the workplace, such as child care, pay equity, and fair treatment. Feminism has evolved and no longer about creating the same opportunities for women, it is also challenging gender norms and combatting gender-based violence. Today’s feminism also seeks to unpack the oppression of gender diverse people and racialized peoples.
- Working Women, Working Poor (Prabha Khosla, The Women and Work Research Group)
- Canada’s unions call for a feminist recovery plan (Canadian Labour Congress)
- Women deserve fair workplaces (Hassan Yussuff, Canadian Labour Congress)
- Decades of progress on gender equality in the workplace at risk of vanishing (Pamela Jeffery)
- How women are changing the face of Canada’s union leadership (Stephanie Ross and Larry Savage)
- Women at work: still a long way to go (Canadian Union of Public Employees)
Cultural sensitivity is defined as: the knowledge, awareness, and acceptance of other cultures and others’ cultural identities by Wikipedia
Cultural sensitivity is becoming a mainstream discussion in equity circles, it is often defined as an awareness of the cultural differences and similarities between people. In other words, the assumptions that North American culture is normal and non-Western cultures as exotic or special. Keeping in mind that not everyone is comfortable sharing personal details in the workplace, it is important to not assume one’s cultural background.
Example: People would say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. This is a culturally sensitive practice, as it is acknowledgment that not everyone celebrates Christmas.
There is no one magic way to create a culturally sensitive workplace. Cultural inclusivity means different things to different people, it is important to openly and respectfully communicate one’s boundaries and expectations. It may be a small change in language to be more inclusive. It may also be a change in work culture, such as allowing workers to take time off to celebrate a holiday.
Disability is defined as: a health condition or problem that has a degree of permanence and impairs one’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities by the Canadian Union of Public Employees
Accessibility is defined as: design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities by Accessibility Services Canada
Disabilities are not strictly physical or visible, which is why we must create accessibility that is more than removing physical barriers of access, but systems that enable access for everyone whether they are able-bodied or not. The employer has a duty to accommodate workers, to ensure fair hiring practices, and to advance equity, while the union holds the employer accountable to their legal and contractual commitments.
Each disability is unique to the person who is living with it, there is no one-size-fits-all accommodation. Accommodation must be customized to individuals with accessibility needs.
- Disability Rights in the Workplace (United Food and Commercial Workers union)
- Disability Rights (Public Service Alliance of Canada)
- Disability Rights (Canadian Union of Public Employees)
Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, who studied extensively the marginalization on race, civil rights, and sex. As a Black woman, Crenshaw was interested to understand the oppression that Black women uniquely face, which is different than how women or Black men are treated. However, since the term “intersectionality” was first developed, it has evolved and understood as the intersection of systems of oppression
In simpler terms, intersectionality hopes to explore the uniqueness people who experience more than one type of oppression. Inequities cannot be measured via data points, but intersectionality helps us put the various factors into consideration.
- Intersectionality: What it means, how to use it, and why to care in 2020 (Andrea Macdonald, The Star)
- Intersectional Feminist (Canadian Women’s Foundation)
- Intersectionality in LGBTI Advocacy (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights)