(January 15, 2021) In December 2020, Statistics Canada launched its first diversity survey, a targeted attempt to measure diversity on governing boards in the charitable and non-profit sector.
It is a crowdsourced survey designed with sector representatives, academics, and will be available online until January 18, 2021.
“Crowdsourced surveys are a relatively new tool for StatsCan,” says Kathleen Fowler, Assistant Director for Social Data Integration & Development, Statistics Canada. “Our first crowdsourced survey, done before the pandemic, was about what people were paying for cannabis. Since then we’ve done seven. A crowdsourced survey is an open call, a pulse check and provides quick information about a population group.”
The diversity survey does not provide any financial data, such as assets and operating budgets, on the organizations the respondents represent. So, it won’t be able to follow the money.
Fowler said financial data couldn’t be measured reliably through the crowdsourcing and there wasn’t certainty that board members would necessarily have the information.
“There are limitations to doing it online. You have to have access to the internet,” says Fowler. “And certain people are more likely to respond than others. Young people don’t engage with surveys as much as older people. You just have to be clear that you’re not representing everyone.
“But the diversity survey will be able to determine whether boards of directors are reflective of the population they serve. It’s the first piece of the story. In order to measure diversity against several characteristics, we’d expect to do more.”
“This is our first ever look at diversity in the sector,” says Senator Ratna Omidvar who co-chaired a 2018/2019 senate committee on the charity sector and was instrumental in bringing the issue to StatsCan for investigation.
“Charities and nonprofits believe in the values of diversity, yet have a hard time implementing it. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Charities have to do the right thing as well as being seen as doing the right thing,” she says.
“The questionnaire is a voluntary and filled out by individual board members, so I’m confident we will be getting a good cross section of people and organizations. This will help us move to the next step, which is mandatory reporting on the T-3010.”
Virtually all corporate board in Canada are “subject to disclosure requirements respecting the representation of women on the board and in senior management,” according to Corporate Governance in Canada.
“The necessary leap must be made to the nonprofit sector,” says Omidvar. “I believe the evidence generated from this work will create willingness to do that. It’s time for governance equity.”
Anyone involved in the governance of a charity or non-profit organization can participate in the diversity survey, which will be available online until January 18, 2021.
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