Employers making progress on anti-Black racism, but employees fear a recession could erode progress

Small Business Canada

KPMG survey reveals improvements in Black Canadians’ career prospects, and gains from remote work

Most Black Canadians feel their employers continued to make progress addressing anti-Black racism in the last year but worry that a recession could wipe out those gains, finds new research by KPMG in Canada.

KPMG’s latest survey of more than 1,000 Black Canadians found that nine in 10 respondents said their employers made progress on efforts to be more equitable and inclusive for Black employees in 2022.

The results measure progress since KPMG’s inaugural survey of last year, which evaluated an 18-month period beginning from the spring of 2020, when companies across Canada pledged to take action towards dismantling anti-Black racism.

Nearly six in 10 (59 per cent) respondents said their employer’s efforts to hire more Black people improved in 2022, and more than half of respondents (54 per cent) said their employer’s efforts to promote more Black people into leadership roles also improved.

At the personal level, 68 per cent said their prospects for advancement (such as opportunities to work on impactful projects, upskilling and training for higher level roles) have improved over the last year, while 58 per cent said their promotion prospects had improved.

Survey Highlights:

  • 90 per cent of respondents said their employer has made progress on their promises to be more equitable and inclusive for Black employees since last year
    • 46 per cent ‘strongly agree’ and 44 per cent ‘somewhat agree’ their employer has made progress
    • 51 per cent of males strongly agree and 41 per cent of females strongly agree
    • 41 per cent of males somewhat agree and 48 per cent of females somewhat agree
Advancement prospectsTotal Male Female 
Significantly improved28 per cent34 per cent22 per cent
Somewhat improved40 per cent39 per cent41 per cent
No change29 per cent24 per cent34 per cent
Somewhat worse/deteriorated2 per cent2 per cent3 per cent
Significantly worse/deteriorated1 per cent1 per cent1 per cent
Promotion prospects TotalMaleFemale
Significantly improved22 per cent26 per cent18 per cent
Somewhat improved36 per cent39 per cent34 per cent
No change37 per cent31 per cent43 per cent
Somewhat worse/deteriorated4 per cent3 per cent4 per cent
Significantly worse/deteriorated2 per cent2 per cent2 per cent

Economic concerns are top of mind

However, respondents fear an economic downturn could threaten to erase those gains. The survey found three-quarters (75 per cent) worry a potential recession will hurt their career and promotion prospects and 77 per cent are concerned it will hurt the career and promotion prospects of their Black and racialized colleagues harder than others.

Nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) think Black and racialized people will be among the first to lose their jobs in a potential recession. Additionally, 73 per cent believe anti-Black racism efforts and broader diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives will be ‘put on the back burner’ by their employer during an economic downturn.

“While it’s encouraging to see Canadian organizations have continued to make progress on addressing anti-Black racism over the past year, it’s imperative to keep building on that momentum, even in the face of economic headwinds, labour market fluctuations and inflationary pressures,” said Elio Luongo, CEO and Senior Partner of KPMG in Canada and Co-Chair of the firm’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (ID&E) Council. 

“Inclusive organizations are naturally more innovative because they value and incorporate diverse perspectives, and that not only helps makes their business stronger, it helps strengthen Canada’s economy. As a business community, we must not lose sight of what’s important – people,” he adds.

Additional survey highlights:

  • 62 per cent said their co-workers’ understanding of the societal and workplace barriers Black Canadians face improved over the past year
  • 61 per cent said their manager’s/supervisor’s understanding of the societal and workplace barriers Black Canadians face improved
  • 58 per cent said top management’s understanding of the societal and workplace barriers Black Canadians face improved
  • 78 per cent said they feel they’re valued and respected in the same way as their non-Black colleagues
  • 70 per cent said they feel they have to work harder than their non-Black colleagues to be valued and recognized in the same way

Impact of Remote and Hybrid Work

Working remotely was largely seen as a positive experience by respondents. Seven in 10 (72 per cent said remote work helped reduce anti-Black racism at their workplace because their colleagues focused more on their skills than their skin colour, and 71 per cent said it helped ease some of the pressures they face as a Black person in the workplace. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) said working remotely removed racial barriers to career advancement.

“When people worked from home during the pandemic and its aftermath, it’s possible many of them let go of biases when they saw their co-workers in their own surroundings, working from their living rooms – suddenly, everyone had a new window into their colleagues’ lives and circumstances. We got to know each other better, and many of us learned that we have more in common than we thought. Let’s capitalize on that progress by continuing to apply the same mindset in person at work,” says Rob Davis, Chair of KPMG’s Board of Directors and Chief Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Officer.   

In addition to making progress on building a more inclusive and equitable workforce, respondents said their employers continued to improve their business practices and relationships with Black clients, consumers, vendors and communities as well. 

Additional survey highlights:

  • 70 per cent of respondents say their employer has made efforts to engage more Black-owned businesses/vendors over the past year
  • 75 per cent say their employer supports organizations and communities that work to reduce anti-Black racism and advance racial equity
  • 74 per cent of respondents said over the last year, their employer has developed a better understanding of the systemic barriers its Black customers and clients face
  • 75 per cent said their employer has improved its customer service practices for Black customers and clients over the last year
  • 69 per cent of respondents say their employer has improved its goods and services offerings for Black customers and clients over the last year
  • 78 per cent said their company treats and values its Black and non-Black clients and customers equally
  • 81 per cent say their company treats and values its Black and non-Black vendors equally

“The inclusion of Black and racialized people in an organization’s workforce, talent pipeline, leadership ranks, supply chain and customer experience strategy are all crucial to addressing anti-Black racism, and employers that are executing on policies and plans in all these areas are demonstrating a genuine commitment to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles,” says Alison Rose, partner at KPMG in Canada’s Life and Pensions Actuarial practice.  

About the survey

KPMG in Canada surveyed 1,001 Canadians who self-identified as Black between December 21, 2022 and January 9, 2023 using Schlesinger Group’s Methodify online research platform. 52 per cent of respondents were male and 48 per cent were female. 83 per cent of respondents worked full-time, 12 per cent worked part-time or on contract, and 5 per cent were self-employed. 28 per cent worked at organizations with less than 100 employees, 25 per cent worked at organizations with 100-499 employees, 14 per cent with 500-999 employees, 13 per cent with 1,000-4,999 employees, 8 per cent with 5,000-9,999 employees and 12 per cent worked at organizations with 10,000+ employees. By industry, 14 per cent worked in accounting, finance and consulting, 14 per cent worked in sales and service, 12 per cent in health services, 12 per cent in manufacturing, 9 per cent in technology, 9 per cent in education, 7 per cent in construction and real estate, 4 per cent in engineering, 3 per cent in legal services and 14 per cent worked in industries classified as ‘other’. The margin of error was +/- 3 percentage points, with a confidence level of 95 percent.

About KPMG in Canada

KPMG LLP, a limited liability partnership, is a full-service Audit, Tax and Advisory firm owned and operated by Canadians. For over 150 years, our professionals have provided consulting, accounting, auditing, and tax services to Canadians, inspiring confidence, empowering change, and driving innovation. Guided by our core values of Integrity, Excellence, Courage, Together, For Better, KPMG employs more than 10,000 people in over 40 locations across Canada, serving private- and public-sector clients. KPMG is consistently ranked one of Canada’s top employers and one of the best places to work in the country.

The firm is established under the laws of Ontario and is a member of KPMG’s global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International, a private English company limited by guarantee. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such. For more information, see home.kpmg/ca.


Pin it
Related Posts