Work Insights series by Skills for Change
By Arsheen Kaur, Outreach Assistant, Skills for Change
As Canada braces to adjust through the COVID-19 pandemic, it needs a meticulous plan of economic and social rebuilding based on the pathway of equality and well-being of everyone. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has aggravated the existing obstacles especially for people from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, exposing them to the brink of economic and social isolation.
In an attempt to support new immigrants in their understanding of the Canadian workspace, Skills for Change launched the Work Insights series aiming to highlight the state of a sector and share insights from experts’ lived experiences. The latest Work Insights focused on ways to navigate Canada’s employment landscape, myths and realities through the BIPOC lens from the learnings of Mark Wilson, Associate Director, Strategic Sourcing Greater Toronto Airport Authority.
Mark Wilson, Associate Director, Strategic Sourcing Greater Toronto Airport Authority
The session addressed the obstacles facing the BIPOC community in the context of Canada’s work culture. Focusing on increasing the probability of success for the BIPOC community, Mark Wilson said, “It is important to acknowledge existing obstacles in social and workplace settings as it prepares one to be resilient in the journey of establishing oneself in a new country. The spirit to persevere, the ability to believe in one’s unique capabilities, and blending beliefs with action is crucial to overcoming setbacks, which are always there.”
Evidently, systemic racism hinders people from succeeding in their careers and the pandemic has clearly exacerbated the situation by further marginalizing people from BIPOC communities. It continues to be (more) difficult to rent places to live, get jobs, and find a sense of belonging in the midst of economic insecurities, the pressure of fitting in, and keeping stable mental health. A second-generation immigrant in Canada, Wilson, like many others, experienced undercurrents of racial discrimination at school, work, and in the community.
The precarious nature of the employment market and work culture, stained by racial discrimination, is one of main deterrents to ascending the career ladder for most BIPOC people. Discrimination within organizations at all levels results in undermining of their qualifications and abilities which is very discouraging at times. For new immigrants, especially Black People and People of Color, the lack of Canadian credentials and experience compounded by preconceived prejudices results in inequalities in job opportunities.
The persistent need to adapt and to fit in is questionable. “The opposite of belonging is fitting in,” says Brene Brown, “and fitting in is the opposite of belonging.” Elaborating on the idea of showcasing oneself as ‘the best fit for an organization’ on a resume while retaining the sense of belonging at the same time, Wilson said, “To fit in, one needs to accept one’s unique set of capabilities and talents. As a visible minority, the diverse knowledge and international experience one comes with gives them an edge in their field.”
Organizations across sectors are implementing more inclusive policies to support BIPOC communities. Recent years have seen some remarkable changes in the hiring practices for entry-level positions to leadership roles, making it more inclusive for visible minorities. To enhance their participation in the economy, organizations are calling for changes in the recruitment process including eliminating biased recruitment practices, expanding the search bracket, and screening candidates based on their knowledge and skillset, and not restricting them by language, color, or privilege.
Understanding the challenges that BIPOC face everyday, at work and in society, plays a significant role in defining their career path and addressing the impacts it has on their careers. With government mandates for diversity and inclusion, organizations are increasingly becoming responsible for building a more diverse and inclusive workforce, but it is happening at a slow pace. As someone who identifies as BIPOC in an organization, it is important to step up to raise awareness within the organization through formal and informal networking, and to challenge systems that marginalize visible minorities and extend privilege to the rest. By calling out the biases in the way they are treated, one can ensure that the organization provides equitable opportunities for BIPOC by introducing policies and programs that make spaces for them.
But it doesn’t just end there. Wilson stressed the importance of self-improvement and finding one’s north star. “It is important to improve one’s skills and credentials, imbibe winning habits, stay focused, inspire others in one’s journey, market oneself as a brand that believes in itself, enhance language skills, acquire industry experience, further educational qualifications irrespective of age, and show up on time. Each one of us is unique in the most incredible ways.”
The session concluded with questions from the audience about the changing organizational scenario and myriad ways to support the careers of BIPOC. Though there is no one way to make this happen, constant efforts to call for equal opportunities to create a diverse workforce, awareness about inclusivity, and acknowledging one’s unique value, will gradually make a difference.