Most Black Canadians think their employers are making genuine efforts to address systemic racism, but much work remains to be done according to KPMG in Canada.

New research by KPMG in Canada found that nearly seven out of 10 (68 percent) Black Canadians say their employers have made progress on following through on their promises to be more equitable and inclusive for Black employees, and their managers and senior leaders have a better understanding of the systemic barriers Black Canadians face.

But barely half have seen these efforts translate into better job opportunities. Roughly one-third (35 percent) believe their prospects for advancement have improved with a breaking down of systemic barriers and 19 percent feel they were offered a job they wouldn’t have a year and a half ago. However, nearly four in 10 say nothing much has changed, and systemic barriers continue to hold back progress. Nearly one in 10 say things have become worse.

The findings come from a survey KPMG conducted in early January 2022 of more than 1,000 Black Canadians. The survey sought to find out whether the promises made by Canadian employers to address systemic racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement were making a difference.

Poll Highlights:

  • 68 percent say their employer has made good (36 percent) or some (32 percent) progress on following through on its promises to be more inclusive and equitable for Black employees;
  • 12 percent say their company’s promises to be more inclusive are simply lip service and 20 percent say their companies have taken no action;
  • 67 percent believe their employers are making genuine efforts to hire more Black Canadians;
  • 58 percent say they are making genuine efforts to promote more Black Canadians into leadership roles;
  • 19 percent say they got a job they previously would have been overlooked for; and
  • 35 percent say their prospects for promotion and advancement have improved.

“These results show that many Canadian organizations have made real and sustained efforts to tackle racial bias in their organizations,” said Rob Davis, Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer and Chair of the Board of Directors of KPMG in Canada. “Black Canadians told us they are seeing progress in the hiring and promotion of employees, in the opportunities for Black-owned business and in the treatment of Black customers.

“I believe that most leaders recognize that today’s challenges require new ways of thinking and they genuinely want to break down barriers so that everyone is heard. Our society and our economy demand it. But there is still much work to do to. While more than two-thirds told us that their employer has made progress to become more inclusive and equitable for Black employees, only a third characterized the progress as good.”

Safer and more respectful  work environment

Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of Black Canadians say they feel valued and respected in the same way as their non-Black colleagues, but nearly an equal proportion of respondents (70 percent) feel they have to work harder than their non-Black peers in order to earn that same respect.

More than four in 10 (44 percent) Black Canadians say they have not experienced any microaggressions or acts of racism at work over the last 18 months with nearly one-quarter (24 percent) saying they have experienced fewer of these over the same period. However, nearly a third continued to experience microaggressions and racism at work, including 14 percent who say it has actually increased.

“While overall, Black Canadians are facing less racism at work, it is still an ugly reality for many,” adds Davis. “Many are concerned that the downturn was driven less by changing perceptions and understanding and more by the fact that many Canadians have been working virtually during the last 18 months. They are worried about what will happen when they return to the office.”

While many Black Canadians have noticed improvements in their professional lives over the last 18 months, they have also seen proof that their employers are making efforts to better engage their Black customers and increase the work they do with Black-owned businesses.

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) say their employers treat and value their Black and non-Black customers equally. Two-thirds say their employers have improved their customer services practices and 64 percent say their employer has improved its goods and services offerings for Black customers. Two-thirds also say their employer has made efforts to engage more Black-owned businesses and vendors over the last year and a half.

“It is significant to see that Canadian organizations have made efforts to improve their overall relationship with Black Canadians,” says Alison Rose, Partner, Life & Pensions Actuarial Practice, KPMG in Canada. “What’s interesting is that while approximately two-thirds of respondents noted that their employers have improved their product offerings and customer service for Black customers, the same proportion of respondents indicate that their employer’s products and services do not always capture or reflect the Black consumer market. The takeaway is that while companies are making efforts to improve the Black customer experience, there is still much work to do.”

When asked about potential solutions to further reduce anti-Black racism in the workplace, 84 percent of respondents said they wanted their employers to make stronger commitments and establish targets for hiring and promoting more Black Canadians, with clear and measurable outcomes and accountability mechanisms. Other actions include:

  • Appoint more Black Canadians to the board of directors and/or senior management ranks (84 percent);
  • More anti-racism education and training for employees and management (83 percent);
  • Senior leadership teams need to “walk the walk” (82 percent);
  • Make reducing anti-Black racism a bigger human resources priority (81 percent);
  • A major culture change (74 percent); and
  • Replace senior leadership teams (54 percent).

“The clear desire for more visible representation at the leadership level isn’t surprising,” says Rose. “Black Canadians typically face a startling lack of senior leaders in their organization that look like them, a situation that can be very demotivating. As a result, it’s particularly important that any strategy to combat anti-Black racism has complete buy-in from the top of the house, and that actions and behaviours are consistent with messaging throughout the organization. More Black leaders means addressing the race-related barriers faced by Black employees at all stages in their career journey.”


KPMG surveyed 1,006 Canadians aged 18-99 from December 22, 2021 to January 7, 2022 using Delvinia’s and its extended community’s AskingCanadians panel through its Methodify online research platform.

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