Integrating equity into employment
This blog is one of four published in early 2019 about the NCCDH’s initiative to become intentionally anti-racist. Each post offers a staff member’s reflection on their experiences of race, racism and/or our organizational initiative. This blog focuses specifically on the NCCDH’s efforts to integrate a racial equity perspective and practice in our human resource practices. (Click here to see earlier blogs in this series.)
By Faith Layden, Program Manager, and Connie Clement, Scientific Director
As program manager with lead on Human Resources (Faith) and scientific director (Connie), we oversee the NCCDH’s human resources practices, within the policies of our host university, St. Francis Xavier University. We are both white women of significant privilege. As part of the NCCDH’s commitment to become anti-racist, the NCCDH is working towards strengthened employment equity being woven into each step of hiring.
In order to truly be able to conduct equity-focused knowledge translation for public health, our staff need knowledge, skill and understanding of racial equity, along with knowledge of other inequity factors, and must engrain an intersectional understanding of power and privilege. Recent hiring of four staff and a contractor have provided an opportunity to improve our recruitment, assessment and selection of staff who bring these attributes and thus can reach full job competence faster.
Below, we outline the steps taken to promote racial equity at various stages of the NCCDH hiring process.
We modified our most recent job calls to specifically name knowledge and/or understanding of anti-racism / anti-oppression practices as a qualification alongside commitment to equity:
|Demonstrated expertise regarding determinants of health and health equity; public health; knowledge translation; change management and communications. Passion for and demonstrated commitment to equity, social justice and anti-racist / anti-oppression practices. (New text is in italics.)|
For our most recent job opening (October 2018), we negotiated permission with our university’s human resources team to integrate a more active diversity recruitment goal that read:
|As part of its commitment to diversity and being anti-racist, the NCCDH actively seeks applications from individuals within equity-seeking populations (e.g., Indigenous persons, people of colour, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ-identified individuals).|
As we sought candidates for a new scientific director in fall/winter 2018, we struck a succession planning workgroup comprising current staff and public health peers from across the country. The workgroup intentionally included male-/female-identified members, an Indigenous member, Francophone/Anglophone members and members with varied disciplinary training, all working in different provinces and job types.
We promoted the director opening more widely than is our usual practice, since it is such a key leadership position. We announced the opening early and repeatedly, including to selected activist and community organizations and to Indigenous colleagues and colleagues of colour, asking them to promote the position to their networks. In addition, we made our outgoing director available for conversations with potential applicants.
To hire most employees, NCCDH management is authorized to screen and select staff using St. Francis Xavier University protocols and policy. NCCDH staff involved in hiring watch for individuals from equity-seeking populations (e.g., Indigenous persons, people of colour, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ-identified individuals) as potential hires. However, historically, this intention hasn’t consistently and routinely been explicit and discussed by hiring committees.
In our hiring since the start of 2018, we adapted our screening tool to annotate whether candidates had provided information about racial/ethnic heritage alongside longer-standing questions about French language fluency, training, public health discipline and geographic location.
We also added an interview question into our most recent hiring to help us assess each candidates’ understanding of their own social position vis a vis oppression and racism.
Candidates were told that the NCCDH has an organizational commitment to being anti-oppressive and improving the public health sector’s capacity to advance racial equity and then asked one or both of the following questions:
- Tell us about how your experience (lived, personal or professional) relates to this initiative, and how you will apply this to your role if you’re hired.
- What does being involved in anti-racist knowledge translation mean to you?
The answers helped us assess experience and observe candidates’ self-reflective skill — a skill that’s important in understanding and teaching / translating health equity.
Expanding this foundation
As a hiring team, we feel that these are good starting steps, but continue to seek feedback both internally and externally on how to improve these processes. I, Faith, have been reading resources that may help us recruit and retain a diverse, mixed-race staff with expertise to equitably share the workload of becoming an anti-racist organization. Four resources that I’ve found helpful are listed below.
We’ll continue to improve practices to better attract members of equity-seeking populations (e.g., Indigenous persons, people of colour, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ-identified individuals). We’re also figuring out how to improve onboarding and retention of a diverse staff, in part by eliminating workplace barriers that prevent full participation by all employees. We hope that as we improve our employment equity practices, more individuals will see themselves reflected in our team and be more inclined to want to join the NCCDH.
Resources to help you assess your own employment equity practices
Thomas B, Lopes T. Dancing on live embers: challenging racism in organizations. Toronto (ON): Between the Lines; 2006. https://btlbooks.com/book/dancing-on-live-embers
University of California, Riverside [Internet]. Riverside (US): The University; c2015. Recruitment & Selection Hiring Process; date unknown [cited 2019 Feb 25];[about 28 screens]. Available from https://hr.ucr.edu/recruitment/guidelines/process.html.
Beck S. Developing and writing a diversity statement [Internet]. Nashville (US): Vanderbilt University Centre for Teaching; 2018 [cited 2019 Feb 25];[about 9 screens]. Available from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/developing-and-writing-a-diversity-statement/.
Randstad Interim Inc. [Internet]. Toronto (ON): Randstad Canada; c2019 [cited 2019 Feb 25];[about 5 screens]. Available from https://www.randstad.ca/about/employment-equity/.
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