The environmental sector in Canada has been growing steadily over the last decade and continues to grow with recent investment in green energy and technology. The rise in environmental awareness among the general public has also meant that environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO’s) have risen in prominence and now represent a wide variety of concerns and issues relevant to many Canadians.
But how well do these organizations represent the constituency they are serving and how diverse are they? Those involved within the environmental community gathered earlier this month at Ryerson University to address the issue of diversity in decision making and its importance as part of a joint workshop presented by DiverseCity and Maytree. Both organizations work at increasing the presence of underrepresented communities on boards, agencies and commissions to better reflect the communities they are serving.
An aging workforce and increasing immigration mean that the leadership potential for minorities is only going to increase. Currently in the GTA, minorities represent only 12.5% of board members in the voluntary sector and only 4.2% of boards in the corporate sector. With visible minorities representing closer to half the population in several urban centers, there needs to be better representation at the decision level. During the workshop the benefits of having inclusive and diverse boards were explored including generating better decisions, providing greater legitimacy, creating more effective fundraising opportunities and developing better responsiveness to the needs of the client and broader community. It was also brought up that religious inclusiveness should also be considered, as many environmental principles overlap with the spiritual aspects of various faiths.
ENGO’s face a bigger challenge in reaching this objective as minorities are already under-represented in many of the sectors within the environmental field. Several challenges arose during the discussions including geographic distribution of some industries and the demographics of smaller and rural communities. However, there are several proactive measures that organizations can take to ensure that diversity becomes incorporated into their culture. These include developing an outreach strategy, creating an effective board and fostering a culture of diversity. DiverseCity has also created a toolkit for non-profit boards to analyze their current decision-making and outreach practices.
For more information about this initiative, please visit: http://diversecitytoronto.ca/
Photo credit from Julie70