Senate staff diversity under a microscope #cdnpoli

The same study should be made with respect to MP and Ministerial staff (the latter, when I looked at in late 2015 and early 2016, showed considerable under-representation in Ministerial offices, particularly of visible minorities and Indigenous peoples):

Women made up 59 per cent of Senate administration staff as of March 2016, according to the Senate administration report tabled in December. That’s a bump of 10 percentage points from the same month a year prior, and the highest level since at least 2009.

That shift was enough to prompt Sen. Marshall to ask the subcommittee’s witness, Senate human resources director Luc Presseau, whether the Senate’s efforts to ensure equal representation for women had created an overrepresentation.

The Senate administration has been working for several years to ensure proper representation of women, aboriginal people, disabled people, and visible minorities.

“When you swing one way to fix something, sometimes you swing the other way a little too far,” Sen. Marshall told The Hill Times in an interview.

In this case, the large jump in representation seems more dramatic than it really was; there were actually six fewer women working in the Senate administration staff last year than the year prior, but the total number of Senate staff had declined by an even greater proportion over that time, from 437 employees (215 women) to 354 (209 women). The Senate administrative staff dropped by 83 people last year after the Senate Protective Service was merged into the Parliamentary Protective Service, which is now a separate entity.

Last year women represented more than half of the top-earning Senate staff—55 per cent of those making six-figures—and exactly half of those in senior and middle management.

The Senate administration report, the fifth of its kind, shows modest changes to representation of visible minorities (15 per cent last year), aboriginal peoples (3.4 per cent), and persons with disabilities (5.6 per cent) since 2009. The report did not cover staffers working in the offices of Senators, but included all components of the Senate bureaucracy.

Mr. Presseau flagged underrepresentation of individuals with disabilities as a problem, telling the subcommittee, “our numbers are not quite as good as what the availability of the population might be.” He also said that indigenous people, particularly from the North, continue to be underrepresented.

None of the Senate administration’s 30 managers identified themselves as aboriginal last year, according to the report.

The Senate has been working to improve diversity among the ranks of its administrative staff for years. The Senate diversity subcommittee isn’t unprecedented either, as a similar subcommittee was set up in 2011 and tabled a report on the subject in 2012.

Mr. Presseau noted that the statistics included in the Senate report are based on individuals identifying themselves as belonging to a minority group—though that is not the case for gender—and said the numbers might look different if staff were reminded to self-identify.

Sen. Tannas, who also sits on the Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee, asked whether the Senate could track whether those who identify as aboriginal could be verified as having official status—registered with the government as “status Indians”—as a way to prevent false claims.

“It’s becoming a bit of an urban legend that if you want to get ahead in the civil service that you suddenly identify with your aboriginal roots. And we don’t want that,” he told The Hill Times, adding it seemed unlikely that the Senate would be able to meet that request.

Sen. Tannas also urged the Senate to focus on increasing regional diversity among its staff, suggesting a program to temporarily exchange staff with provincial legislatures, in part to combat the perception out West that the government is run by people from Central Canada.

“I think it’s important in the national Parliament that we don’t wind up with a perfectly sealed bubble, where everybody involved in the affairs of the country drives no more than an hour to work,” he told The Hill Times.

Senators on the subcommittee also stressed the importance of hiring more veterans to work in the Senate, and finding a way to guard against name-based bias, wherein job applicants are overlooked, consciously or unconsciously, because their name suggests they belong to a minority group.

Sen. Jaffer told The Hill Times she hoped the subcommittee could wrap up its work and put together a report before June.

Source: Senate staff diversity under a microscope – The Hill Times – The Hill Times


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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