Black, Indigenous, racialized representation still lacking in leadership positions in Canada

Lana Majid

Despite often being recognized as one of the most diverse nation in the world, with one in four people identifying as a member of a racialized group, Canada’s leadership tables continue to have a diversity deficit.

Racialized individuals represent 28.4 per cent of the population in major Canadian cities but only hold 10.4 per cent of board positions, according to the Diversity Institute’s 2020 Diversity Leads report.

CivicAction, a nonprofit that tackles GTHA urban challenges through civic engagement, is addressing this diversity deficit with a new program — BoardShift — that prepares and matches racialized talent with nonprofit, charitable, and public board opportunities. 

“There is nothing more important to the future of our cities than those who will lead them. However, not all leadership journeys look the same — especially for those who belong to equity-deserving communities,” said Leslie Woo, CEO, CivicAction. “The data tells us that our leadership tables exclude racialized voices and their much-needed perspectives and lived experiences. We’re addressing this issue and expanding and investing in our country’s leadership pipelines with the introduction of BoardShift.”

Leslie Woo

BoardShift supports the unique needs of Indigenous, Black, and racialized rising leaders seeking board roles through a tailor-made governance curriculum, access to open board positions from participating organizations, and a diverse and wide network.

Lana Majid, Director, Maple and Board Member, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, recalls confronting barriers when she first navigated the governance landscape. “Having the passion to create meaningful change alone isn’t enough to secure a board opportunity. There is so much to understand from the culture and structure of a board to finance and fundraising fundamentals. BoardShift equips diverse rising leaders with the knowledge and resources to pursue board opportunities and positively impact their communities,” Majid said.

The program also provides tools and resources to support boards in welcoming, amplifying, and empowering equity-deserving voices. Organizations are required to commit to the BoardShift Inclusivity Charter and prioritize inclusive governance best practices. United Way Greater Toronto is one of the first organizations to join BoardShift.

“United Way Greater Toronto is committed to creating an equitable and inclusive society, and that starts with our leadership. By thoughtfully and intentionally creating an inclusive board, we are creating a deeper connection with our communities for stronger, better solutions to ensure that we are reaching everyone, regardless of their postal code, circumstances or background,” says Daniele Zanotti, President and CEO, United Way Greater Toronto.

BoardShift currently has 15 participating organizations including the City of Toronto, United Way Greater Toronto and SoulPepper Theatre, and 38 candidates across nine sectors.