The Liberal government included in its mandate letters to all ministers a “commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.”
While the focus is clearly with respect to political appointments, this commitment will likely extend to the senior ranks of the public service in a renewed emphasis on diversity. Deputy minister appointments are made by the Prime Minister upon the recommendation of the Clerk of the Privy Council. While the Foreign Affairs Minister recommends ambassadorial appointments or equivalent, largely reflecting public service recommendations, the Prime Minister approves. The PM also has the power to select candidates for high profile positions. ADM appointments in Canada, on the other hand, are by the public service only. All positions at this level are bilingual.
With this in mind, I have established the baseline for the current representation of women and visible minorities that will allow tracking of progress over time.
Overall, the Public Service is reasonably diverse with respect to women (54.1 percent), visible minorities (13.2 percent compared to the 15 percent who are Canadian citizens) and Indigenous Canadians (5.1 percent). For the executive ranks, women are almost at parity (46.1 percent) but visible minorities are under-represented (8.5 percent) as are Indigenous Canadians (3.7 percent). All figures are from the Treasury Board Secretariat report, Employment Equity in the Public Service of Canada 2013–14.
To determine representativeness, the government applies a labour market availability (LMA) benchmark (i.e., “the share of designated group members in the workforce from which the employers could hire”). For ADMs and other members of the EX category, the respective LMA is 45 percent for women, 7.5 percent for visible minorities and 4.5 percent for Indigenous Canadians.
Arguably, a more appropriate measure of inclusion is derived from comparison to the overall share of the population (or, in the case of visible minorities, the percentage of those who are also Canadian citizens – 15 percent).
However, these aggregate numbers — both actual and LMA — do not give a detailed sense of diversity within the senior ranks of the public service, defined as deputy and assistant deputy ministers (DM and ADM or equivalent).
Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries are relatively diverse (41 percent women, 21 percent visible minority men or women). The question is how diverse are those public servants at senior levels, with whom they work.
My information sources are reasonably accurate. For the 85 Deputies, their Associates and equivalents, public sources such as GEDS (the government electronic contact database), the Parliamentary website, cross-checked with PCO Deputy Committee lists, were used for both Deputies and Associate Deputies. This data does not include any of the recent changes announced by the Prime Minister.
For ADMs, Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) provided official statistics for the 282 officials at the EX-4 or 5 rank for the 2013-14 year in the core public administration (77 organizations), along with estimated labour market availability.
For senior heads of Mission (HoM), Global Affairs Canada provided a list of the 16 missions whose Ambassadorial and High Commissioner positions are currently classified at the EX4-5 level (these are a subset of the overall ADM numbers).
Some of these positions are over-filled by people at the DM level (e.g., Jon Fried at the WTO) or former politicians (e.g., Lawrence Cannon in Paris, Gordon Campbell in London, and Gary Doer in Washington). This data predates the announcement of the two Ambassador-designates in Washington and the UN (New York), both men replacing men.
While the data for gender is reliable, data for visible minorities is less so, given that official reports rely on self-reporting and that there are limits to using names and photos to identify visible minority status. However, this methodology is also used with respect to MP diversity.
What does the data show? As seen in the chart above, representation of women is relatively close to gender parity, save for Ambassadors and their equivalents (Heads of Mission and other ADM-equivalent officials abroad).
However, visible minorities are less than half of the percentage of those that are Canadian citizens (15 percent) or in the House of Commons (14 percent).
The ‘all EX’ category has more junior executive positions (EX1-3) and thus the greater diversity in these feeder groups suggests that over time, diversity at more senior levels should naturally increase.
The public service may feel compelled to take a more active approach given the Government’s commitment.
Likely early tests of the Government’s commitment to increased diversity will occur as deputy ministers retire and are replaced along with changes to Heads of Mission over the course of the year.
13 new Deputies have been named to date by the Prime Minister including 6 women (46 percent, reflecting in part the four women: appointed on International Women’s Day!) and one visible minority (8 percent). Future appointments will indicate whether this portends a trend.
By tracking this on an annual basis, along with changes to ADM ranks, progress can be assessed.
An edited version of this article appeared first in The Hill Times.