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Institute compares companies’ cultural makeup to that of the nation. Stacey Askew reports.

Canada’s trademark multiculturalism isn’t reflected in the nation’s boardrooms, and Ryerson researchers want to find out why.

The aim of the Career Advancement for Visible Minorities study, a joint initiative between the Ryerson Diversity Institute in Management and Technology and Catalyst Canada Inc, is to determine why visible minorities aren’t cracking the glass ceiling and making it into the boardrooms.

“Visible minorities in Toronto are no longer the minority,” says Margaret Yap, an assistant business professor and one of the study’s investigators. “The last report by Conference Board Canada showed (that) although minorities are increasing in number, only three per cent make up management.”

The study, Yap says, will “examine the professional advancement of visible minority managers/professionals and executives.” Samples include Financial Post 500 companies and the country’s top law firms. Visible minorities and Caucasians will be surveyed, the latter as a control group.

Researchers aim to survey as many visible minorities in a wide range of areas, as the experiences of those in different areas could vary. “If we have enough of a sample size we’re going to try find if there’s a difference between, say, Chinese and South Asians,” Yap says.

They are also curious as to whether language barriers keep employees from being promoted, she added.

The survey, which was launched in October, is confidential and takes roughly 20 minutes to complete online. It asks about work environment and supervision level, as well as the participants’ intention to stay in the country and with their current employer.

Initial findings will be available by early 2007.

The Diversity Institute (originally the Diversity Institute in Information Technology) was intended to entice women into IT, where they were significantly underrepresented. By 2006, so many Ryerson faculty members were researching diversity that the institute was renamed, and broader research began.

“The focus is obviously research-related, but we see it benefiting our students,” says Wendy Cukier, associate business dean and one of the institute’s founders.

Yet students have mixed feelings about the subject of the study.

“It doesn’t matter. I haven’t been affected,” says Victor Singh, a second-year business management student. Being part of a visible minority isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be, he says.

But a first-year business management student, said she’s interested in the study. “Minorities aren’t always seen… as educated,” she says. “We’re seen as lower than the rest.”

Advocate Placement President Anita Lerek doesn’t think management positions are suffering from a lack of diversity.

“There’s lots of diversity in management,” says Lerek, whose company helps lawyers find jobs. “Managers are looking for diversity in those that they hire.”

But Yap believes the study will help determine what the problems are.

“If we can find out what kinds of barriers people face, we can then take down the barriers,” she says.

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