Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Nova Scotia Government was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018):
- Nova Scotia Government maintains departmental diversity committees and hosts a Diversity Round Table, an interdepartmental forum on diversity and inclusion
- In addition to employing a Senior Consultant of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Nova Scotia Government created formal guidelines to support trans and gender variant employees -- the organization also maintains inclusive language guidelines as well as guidelines for inclusive facilitation, such as inclusive teaching strategies
- Nova Scotia Government manages an immigrant workplace placement program offered in partnership with Immigrant Services Association Nova Scotia
"I think the most important lesson I've learned is that our work on building awareness of the value of diversity and inclusion is a critical starting point. To have diversity and inclusion supported and embraced in our workplace and communities, we need to engage with others to co-create resources and address systemic barriers. The results we'd all like to see will only come to life when we collaborate with our colleagues, senior leaders, other networks, other departments and our communities." Maria T., Co-chair of the Diversity Committee at the Department of Labour and Advanced Education
The Nova Scotia Government aims for full participation
Tracey Thomas is optimistic. When she joined the Government of Nova Scotia public service seven years ago as Senior Policy Analyst for the Office of African-Nova Scotian Affairs, she didn't see many women who looked like her at inter-departmental meetings. She still doesn't. But she is hopeful that by 2024, the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent, the public service executive ranks will look very different than they do today.
"The opportunities are now presenting themselves, for African Canadian women specifically and women of colour in general, to advance," she says. "Women are now applying for jobs and getting the interviews, and some are getting positions. This is all a recent change that I consider a positive, because I see some diverse people ascending the ladder."
Laura Lee Langley, Head of the Public Service, is leading the charge for full participation. "We want to make space for people from diverse backgrounds to have meaningful roles while we're shaping public policy and providing services," she says. "We can't do that if we don't prepare the workplace and the people already in the workplace to create that space. We think we're making progress, as measured against the Nova Scotia labour force. We'll keep working at it."
Some 60 per cent of civil servants are women, and more than half of the deputy ministers are female. Also encouraging is that 8.2 per cent of the civil service is composed of racially visible persons (versus 5.9 per cent of the provincial labour force). "But we are struggling to get racially visible persons in senior-level positions," says Langley. "For example, Aboriginals and African-Canadians are under-represented in the civil service, and more intensive recruitment efforts are focused on those groups."
To make the workplace more welcoming, the public service undertakes diversity training of all its employees. Diversity and Employment Equity is a mandatory one-day interactive course. There is also Understanding the Aboriginal Context in Nova Scotia and Respectful Workplace, a mandatory program for employees and managers.
The civil service has initiated Positive Spaces, a program that promotes inclusiveness for LGBTIQ+ employees. It includes two days of learning about the diversity of LGBTIQ+ people and how to be an ally. In the past year, the government has launched guidelines to support trans and gender-variant employees.
Hiring policies have also evolved. For the past 18 months, 35 management-level positions have been designated for diverse candidates only. Also, the province has developed diverse hiring panels. "When people from diverse backgrounds come for an interview, they see themselves reflected in the panel," says Langley. "It has made a significant difference in how candidates feel about their experience in the hiring process."
A training program called Pathways to Advancement has been implemented specifically for under-represented groups. "It's like someone has nine months with an executive coach around their career," says Langley. "They were previously being passed over for training and development opportunities."
The government hosts six employee-led diversity and affinity groups. They are African-Canadian Women in Public Service, L'nu (for First Nations), GoverNEXT (for younger employees and those interested in innovation), Pride Nova Scotia Employee Network, the Public Service Disability Network and the Immigrant and Newcomer Network. Most networks also encourage allies to join.
Each network is championed by a deputy minister at the weekly meetings of the Deputy Ministers Table. "Part of the deputy ministers' responsibility is to be accountable for ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion and to demonstrate actively that commitment," says Langley.
The Diversity Roundtable, an interdepartmental forum on which the employee networks and the government employees union are represented, meets every six weeks to discuss diversity and inclusion policies. With Thomas as co-chair, the Roundtable is developing its first strategic plan.
Its hardest-won achievement to date was to have Inter-cultural and Diversity Proficiency included in the set of competencies used to evaluate managers and other non-unionized employees. "This was a very big win," says Thomas.