Friday, 10 March 2017 02:34

Looking Beyond the Name on a Resumé

Commentary by Vivian Li in Toronto

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare gave us the famous line “What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While he was stating, with a noble intention, that it’s not the name of a person but their content and character that truly matters, we know that in 2017 our relationship with our own names and how they’re perceived by others isn’t so simple.

Names matter. For many people they’re a major reflection of our identities, origins, family histories, and the expectations and wishes of our parents symbolized onto us by the very word we use to not only personally identify with but also to introduce ourselves to the world.

When it comes to employment, recent research has shown that names definitely do have an impact on how people are perceived and unfortunately this can manifest in a negative way.

A newly released joint University of Toronto and Ryerson study shows discrimination and hiring bias are present when it comes to applicants with Asian (defined in the study as Indian, Pakistani or Chinese) names. In a study of data from a 2011 Canadian employment audit, researchers analyzed nearly 13,000 job applications for over 3000 job postings in Toronto and Montreal.

Even when all qualifications were equal and the individual was Canadian in origin, the study found that applicants with an Asian name were 28 per cent less likely to get called for an interview compared to applicants with a more traditional Anglo-based name. The callback rate for an interview deteriorates even further when the applicant’s education or work experience was from outside of Canada.

Small vs. Big organizations

The study also shows that smaller companies exhibit even worse discrimination than larger organizations, likely due to lack of resources and internal diversity awareness programs. In companies with fewer than 500 employees, the chance of an applicant with an Asian name and of Canadian origin getting a call for an interview was 42% less, and this drops to a staggering 68% less when the applicant’s education and work history was international.

Following the release of the study, RBC and Ryerson University co-sponsored a panel discussion event moderated by Ratna Omidvar, Senator and Visiting Professor, Global Diversity Exchange at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. The goal was to explore the challenges discovered by the research and identify ways to eliminate these types of persisting hiring biases.

Hiring from the community

As an Asian Canadian and one of the RBCers who were invited to the event and discussion, my feelings were hopeful but also bittersweet. On the one hand, I continue to be very proud of working for a company like RBC where 33 per cent of our workforce is made up of visible minorities, surpassing the Canadians average of 25 per cent by a sizable margin.

In my role as Senior Manager, Inclusive Recruitment, I know from a wide range of personal experiences that hiring from the community to serve the community has always been one of our most effective and rewarding guiding principles. We’ve passionately built a suite of forward-thinking programs designed to help immigrants and new Canadians build their career at RBC, including ourCareer Edge internship and TRIEC mentoring programs, and RBC volunteers also actively participate in various speed-mentoring events with newcomers to help us look beyond a resume and meet the person behind the name.

Visible minorities are also highly represented in our own recruitment team, which helps us build the cultural competency needed to truly understand the nuanced needs of new Canadians and leads us to address unconscious bias when it comes to screening resumes.

On the other hand, if the study indicates that society in general still interprets minority status negatively then it unavoidably has a potentially negative impact in organizations all across Canada.

Hiring biases

Canada is an immigrant country and by 2035, almost 100 per cent of the Canadian population growth will depend on immigration. Hiring bias against minorities will hugely impact our ability to build competitive advantage both as a company and a country.

So what can we do differently?

We often talk about how diversity is the mix and inclusion is how we make the mix work well together. The bottom line is that in order to make the mix work well together, each one of us needs to look within and examine our own conscious or unconscious bias. It is human nature to favour people who are most like us and view people who are in our own groups as being more favourable than “the others.” A lot of the time, addressing unconscious is about asking ourselves uncomfortable questions (see graphic alongside).

With that in mind, my challenge to everyone is this: the next time you’re looking at a resume and decide to put it aside, pause for a moment and ask yourself why you are doing it… and then look at the name.

Vivian Li is a Senior Manager responsible for inclusive recruitment at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Prior to her experience in RBC, Vivian worked as an HR professional with Bell Canada.

Published in Economy
Monday, 17 October 2016 15:02

The Senate’s Champion of Diversity

by Mackenzie Scrimshaw in Ottawa

With mere weeks remaining before the U.S. presidential election, which could see the victory of a candidate who has vowed to implement “extreme vetting” for immigrants, Independent Sen. Ratna Omidvar, long an advocate for diversity and inclusion, suggests that Canada is mostly, but not entirely, safe from similar issues.

“We’re a far more polite society. We have far more civility,” she said in a recent interview. “I think there are some things that Donald Trump says that nobody would say here, frankly.”

Notwithstanding that observation, Omidvar has some questions about Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s proposed “anti-Canadian values” test for immigrants.

“Will someone tell me what is ‘Canadian’ outside rule of law and our values that are expressed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?” Omidvar said.

Omidvar also pointed to a recent poll by CBC News and Angus Reid, in which almost 70 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Minorities should do more to fit in with mainstream American/Canadian society.”

“The CBC poll, I think, in a sense, was a reflection of language and discourse coming in (from the U.S.),” she said.

The senator sat down with iPolitics on October 6 in a vacant office at the University of Ottawa’s Fauteux Building after giving a keynote speech to a group of law students, interested in refugee law, from across Canada. The address was part of the first student-led conference of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Although she isn’t a lawyer, Omidvar has worked for years on issues of immigration and diversity. Prior to her Senate appointment, Omidvar chaired an organization called LifelineSyria, which helps resettle Syrian refugees in the Greater Toronto Area. She also headed up the anti-poverty Maytree Foundation for a time.

Now, the rookie senator is a distinguished visiting professor at the Global Diversity Exchange (GDX), a “think and do tank” at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management. Omidvar is also the GDX’s founding executive director.

Recognized widely for her contributions, Omidvar has many accolades, including membership to both the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada.

Omidvar spoke candidly for more than half an hour, sharing with the students her wisdom — such as, ‘tell human stories’ — and her experience fleeing Iran and arriving in Canada in 1981.

Following her address, the senator told iPolitics that Canadians cannot take our experience with multiculturalism for granted.

“I think we have to be aware that our story of ‘Canadian exceptionalism’ is one that continues to be strengthened,” she said.

The government’s citizenship bill

Currently, Omidvar is supporting the government’s citizenship bill, C-16, which she moved to a second reading on September 27. Now, about a year-and-a-half after the former Harper government passed its controversial Bill C-24, known as the Strengthening Citizenship Act, the new piece of legislation is intended to revert the changes the Conservative bill made to the Act.

The senator’s office outlined in a recent news release some of the “significant changes” proposed by the bill:

–          Repealing the authority to revoke the citizenship of dual citizens on national interest grounds;

–          Repealing the requirement for citizen applicants to declare an intent to reside in Canada;

–          Reinstating previous, reduced residency requirements to obtain citizenship;

–          Reinstating residency credit for temporary residents; and

–          Reinstating previous age requirements to meet language and knowledge criteria to obtain citizenship.

Going forward, Omidvar says she thinks it’s going to be difficult trying to reinstate the previous age requirements, exempting those between 14 and 18 and 55 and older. Already, Omidvar is facing questions about evidence to support this change, which she says she’s trying to gather.

“I’m really concerned, here, about people who have a disadvantage in either having the capacity to learn the language or having the opportunity to learn the language,” she said.

Technically, the opportunity exists to learn an official language, given that there are classes, she said. “But when you have to work three jobs to put [food] on the table, please tell me when are you going to find time to learn English?

“I have a great deal of sympathy for immigrants who are in what I would call ‘precarious work situations,'” she said, adding that this is the case for many immigrants, especially those in cities.

Plus, Omidvar is very concerned about refugee women.

“I have a family that I’m sponsoring: I can see everyone — everyone — in the family is moving ahead by leaps and bounds. Except the mother,” she said. “Imagine if after three years, everybody else becomes a citizen and she doesn’t.”

Don’t pigeonhole her

Following her appointment last March, Omidvar told CBC News that, “There are issues that concern me that I have not been able to work on.”

Omidvar elaborated on this point while speaking to iPolitics, saying that she won’t limit her work as a senator to issues of migration, diversity and inclusion.

“I don’t want to be known as the senator [for] refugees, immigrants,” she said, adding, “It’s a big part of the country; it’s not all the country.”

Instead, “I’m pretty keen on working on issues that are of vital importance to the not-for-profit and charitable sector.”

These issues, she suggests, involve a lack of public respect for the sector, as well as its relationships with provincial/territorial and federal governments and the Canada Revenue Agency. However, Omidvar says she hasn’t yet determined her focus.

“This is an area in my eight years I would like to leave a legacy in that field, as well,” she said. “I’m interested in this because I don’t think there’s a single senator who is not associated with a not-for-profit or a charity, so this is something that we may well have common cause on.”

Senate modernization

The special committee on Senate modernization this month released its first report, with more than 20 recommendations intended to move the institution forward. The final recommendation, on committees, aims to make the process of assigning senators to standing Senate committees more inclusive in order to guarantee representation for Conservative, Liberal and independent senators.

“We should have voice and we should have standing as members of committees at the same scale of our presence in the Senate,” Omidvar said of the independent senators. “I was pleased to see some of this reflected in the Senate modernization report.”

Currently, however, this isn’t the case for the independents, who are underrepresented on committees.

“That’s simply, I think, unfair,” Omidvar said. “And that’s the first thing that has to change.”

Now, she says, there should be aggressive timelines for implementing some of these recommendations.

Life inside the chamber

Now, after roughly four months in the chamber, Omidvar says she was “naive” about parliamentary procedure and still has much to learn — which isn’t easy — in this area.

Meanwhile, she says she loves working on legislation — from the bill on Air Canada’s centres of excellence to physician-assisted dying to citizenship.

“I love the fact that at the Senate we get to see how the country really works and we are able to put our finger on it,” she said. “It’s absolutely fantastic.”

The third part, Omidvar says, involves learning how “to be more of a politician,” which is “completely new” to her.

“So, I have a very steep learning curve that I’m just beginning.”

In order to climb that curve Omidvar says she’s going to ask some of her colleagues to coach her on parliamentary procedure, an approach she thinks will be the most effective for her.

Plus, “I will keep open lines of communication with senators who oppose my point of view or support my point of view,” she said. 

This goes for senators in any of the three camps — Conservative, Liberal or independent.

“I’ve been appointed as an independent and I intend to use that independence to create alliances…where I can.” 

Beyond legislation

Although she introduced the government’s citizenship bill on the first day of the Senate’s fall sitting, Omidvar says she doesn’t have any plans to move another piece of legislation.

However, the rookie senator says that legislation is only one instrument — and that she’s currently trying to learn about each of the tools in her figurative toolbox. Senators can, for example, launch inquiries, ask questions and write or lead reports.

“I think it’s easy to go to legislation, but I think there’s lots one can do along with legislation.”

Published in partnership with

Published in Top Stories
Tuesday, 11 December 2012 10:07

New intake for skilled trades draws applause

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Monday a new Skilled Trades Stream program for immigrants.


The emphasis will be on reducing the shortage of skilled workers. The list of eligible professions is expected to include such trades as pipe-fitters, mechanics, transportation jobs and electricians. The applications for the program will be accepted as of January 2, 2013. In the beginning, to avoid backlogs, a maximum of 3,000 applications will be accepted per year.


Launching the new category, Minister Kenney said, "This is about having an immigration system that works for Canada, works for our economy, works for newcomers [and] fuels our long-term growth and prosperity.” The new category was developed to address concerns that the federal skilled workers program did not cover trade workers adequately. It will allow those who fulfill certain criteria to complete the immigration process faster.


The applicants for the program will need to comply with these criteria:


·         Have a job offer in Canada.

·         Have basic proficiency in French or English, but not at the level required by the skilled worker points system.

·         Prove that they have recently worked in the trade and have a minimum of two years' experience.

·         Show that their occupation falls within the federal trade classification system.


Professional associations, such as the Canadian Construction Association, welcomed the announcement. “The new program ensures greater consideration is given to the needs of industry when processing eligible immigration applications,” association president Michael Atkinson said.


Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business also supports the program: “With the shortage of qualified labour in many parts of Canada growing once again, the launch of the Skilled Trades immigration stream is very welcome news.”


For future immigrants, this is a new program which, since it does not have a backlog of applications, will be faster and more responsive. Also, having slightly lower language thresholds, program will be more adequate for trade workers than the Federal Skilled Worker Program, allowing these applicants to qualify more easily.


Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants welcomes this expansion of the Federal Skilled Workers Program. “The stream makes it easier for those who would not qualify under the current point system (where 67 pts are needed) because of level of language fluency required and education levels and the points given for each of these. Service support and intervention may still be needed (for acculturation and integration issues) and will be available.”



Regarding the effects to the immigration community, Douglas explains: ”The program does not necessarily benefit immigrants already here. In Ontario, our Provincial Nominee program tends to privilege those who are high skilled or international students. What this new stream does is open up the door for many who would otherwise not qualify to come through the skilled workers' class.”


Ratna Omidvar, president of Maytree foundation, believes the new immigration stream is welcome and long overdue. “The program’s focus on skills and experience, rather than just on formal education, is practical and recognizes the reality of how tradespeople often gain their training and expertise.”

Omidvar adds that we need to be careful about occupation lists because projecting labour needs can be challenging – what is needed now might not be what is needed in the future. “ We need an immigration system that values workers who can adapt and change with the labour market. While we look forward to welcoming more skilled tradespeople through this program in the future, employers need to remember that we have highly skilled and experienced tradespeople already living in Canada, including immigrants who might have come to Canada as family members or refugees. These skilled tradespeople are here, now, and are ready to work.”

Published in National

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved