​Despite organizations making significant progress on being more inclusive for Black employees, racism in the workplace is still prevalent, with seven in 10 (72 per cent) Black Canadians experiencing some form of racism or microaggression at work, according to a recent KPMG in Canada survey.

This comes as KPMG found a majority of respondents said their employers were making progress on being more equitable and inclusive for Black employees over the past year.

Source: KPMG's Black Canadians in the Workplace Survey

“Despite institutional efforts to address anti-Black racism, we still see individuals within organizations who do not recognize that some of their remarks or behaviours are racist and unacceptable,” says Silvia Gonzalez-Zamora, a Partner in the People and Change practice and head of the Inclusion and Diversity service offering at KPMG in Canada. “While it’s virtually impossible to address every individual comment or action, there is a lot that organizations can do to build equitable processes and a workplace where people treat each other with respect and feel a sense of belonging: build trust, foster allyship and listen to employees.

The good news is that eight in 10 (80 per cent) respondents feel they can speak up about racism at work without being stigmatized, and an equal amount say they have allies at work who will speak up for them and other Black colleagues when they witness instances of racism, bias or injustice. “Building and reinforcing a workplace culture where everyone feels seen, heard and respected is a social and economic imperative,” adds Ms. Gonzalez-Zamora.

Encouragingly, nearly six in 10 (57 per cent) say their company has an allyship training program, which prepares employees to better support, collaborate with, and advocate for people from underrepresented and marginalized groups in and outside the workplace. The survey also found that three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents say their employer has employee resource groups (ERGs) committed to advancing racial equity.

“While it’s great to see that many companies have established employee resource groups, it’s equally important that leadership recognizes them as key stakeholders in the firm’s success by listening to and acting on the diverse perspectives and experiences of their Black, Indigenous and people of colour (POC) members. This helps organizations better understand the roots of systemic racism and address it,” says Tarisai Madambi, Director, Management Consulting, KPMG in Canada, and Co-Lead of KPMG’s Black Professionals Network.

A growing expectation

“Since the death of George Floyd in the spring of 2020, employee expectations on addressing anti-Black racism have increased significantly,” says Ms. Madambi. According to the survey, more than eight in 10 (83 per cent) Black Canadians want their leaders to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to creating an equitable and diverse workplace.

“While Canadian organizations have made progress in addressing anti-Black racism, it’s a journey,” says Tamika Mitchell, an Enterprise Audit senior manager at KPMG in Canada, and Co-Lead of the Black Professionals Network. “Corporations need to maintain the zeal they had in 2020 to put in the work required to dismantle the systemic barriers to advancement for Black professionals. Anti-racism work takes stamina; we need to keep the momentum going for sustainable change to take hold.”

Survey respondents cited a number of solutions to help companies become more equitable and reduce racism in the workplace, including:

  • 89 per cent want their company to establish employee resource groups committed to advancing racial equity
  • 88 per cent feel that stronger commitments and targets for hiring and promoting more Black people are needed, with clear and measurable outcomes and accountability
  • 86 per cent say more Black people should be appointed to the board of directors and/or senior management ranks
  • 86 per cent want more engagement and to contract more Black-owned businesses/vendors
  • 82 per cent want more anti-racism education and training for employees and management
  • 82 per cent say their company needs to make this a bigger human resources priority
  • 76 per cent say their company needs a major culture change to achieve this

Optimism for the future

“The majority of Black Canadians are optimistic about corporate Canada’s ability to continue to reduce systemic barriers in the workplace over the next five years, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” says Ms. Gonzalez-Zamora. “Allowing anti-Black racism to persist could cost organizations their most valuable resource – their people. Anti-Black racism is a societal problem that everyone, including organizations must work to resolve.”

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. Fifty-two per cent of respondents were male and 48 per cent were female. Eighty-three per cent of respondents worked full-time, 12 per cent worked part-time or on contract, and 5 per cent were self-employed. Twenty-eight 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 kpmg.com/ca.

For media inquiries:

Sonja Cloutier-Bosworth
National Communications and Media Relations
KPMG in Canada
(416) 777-8175
(416) 528-5324