Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Best Practices for Recruitment, Hiring and Retention


The Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) defines equity as the removal of systemic barriers and biases, and the practice of inclusivity, so that all individuals have equal access to and benefit from the program.

To achieve this, institutions must embrace diversity, defined as differences in race, colour, place of origin, religion, immigrant status, Aboriginal status, ethnic origin, ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and age. Recognizing and valuing diversity and equity must be accompanied by concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of diverse populations, meaning that individuals must be and feel valued, respected and equally supported. The institution must strive to put in place the right conditions for each individual—including those from the four designated groups (FDGs): women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal Peoples—to reach their full potential, unimpeded by inequitable practices or research environments.

This webpage includes best practices for promoting equity, diversity and inclusion at each stage of planning for, recruiting, hiring and retaining diverse faculty. The practices have been gathered from subject-matter experts, university equity offices, and the policies and published practices of international funding organizations.

These best practices are not requirements; rather, the information on this page is a tool for institutions to use as they determine how best to address any areas for improvement identified when assessing their campus climate. For CRCP’s specific expectations for the recruitment, hiring and retention of chairholders, refer to the guidelines for ensuring a fair and transparent recruitment and nomination process .

The best practices will be updated yearly. If you have additions and/or changes to suggest, please contact the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat.

A. Organizational allocation and planning
B. Job postings
C. Search for candidates
D. Hiring committee
E. Interview
F. Hiring decisions
G. Canada Research Chair nomination
H. Retention and promotion
I. Self-identification
J. Environment

A. Organizational allocation and planning

  • Consider diversity and equity when assessing organizational needs, goals and risks. Include increased representation of the FDGs as part of a strategic research plan. Ask questions such as:
    • Are there members of designated groups in senior leadership and research roles?
    • Are there members of designated groups serving as role models for underrepresented members of the institution’s community?
    • Are there members of designated groups acting as mentors for faculty and students, especially for underrepresented members of the institution community?
    • How does the organization’s leadership award, celebrate and recognize equity, diversity and inclusion achievements?
    • Is the institution meeting its current targets for equity representation in the CRCP?
  • Create a leadership position with responsibilities that include:
    • providing advice to senior management on how best to take equity, diversity and inclusion into account in planning and procedures;
    • ensuring there is education and outreach to promote and sustain an inclusive and diverse environment on the campus at large;
    • creating resources and offering sensitivity training on the needs and realities of members of the FDGs and other underrepresented groups;
    • promoting the value of diversity and inclusion; and
    • organizing events to celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Communicate equity and diversity objectives to all faculty, administrators, students and student associations.
  • Evaluate the performance of deans and vice-presidents, in part, on how well they implement the equity and diversity plans. Also, as part of performance plans for middle-management, include actions to promote equity, diversity and inclusivity.
  • Review current policies, practices and procedures through an equity and diversity lens, to identify potential gaps, areas for improvement and areas of strength in the recruitment and retention of members of FDGs and other minority groups. Ensure there are members of the FDGs and/or equity experts on the review panel.
  • Monitor the use of flex moves, and consider targeted hiring to increase representation of members of the FDGs. Be conscious of the need to increase FDG representation in all disciplines, and in both Tier 1 and Tier 2 chair positions.
  • Consider equity and diversity (e.g., issues of concern to members of the FDGs and other underrepresented groups) when identifying and creating research programs.
  • Retain documentation about the merit basis of the appointment and hiring decision, and include similar evidence in public communications about the appointment. This is necessary to counter any unintended messaging that members of the designated groups may have earned their chair appointments by way of their designation, rather than their scholarly merit.

B. Job postings

  • Ensure an equity and diversity expert reviews and approves the job posting before it is posted.
  • Post all job postings publicly for a minimum of 30 days.
  • Use encompassing, clear, flexible criteria for assessing excellence that fully document, recognize and reward the scholarship of teaching, professional service, outreach, mentoring and research training, and account for nontraditional areas of research and/or research outputs.  
  • Post only the qualifications and skills necessary for the job.
  • Use inclusive, unbiased, ungendered language. Be inclusive of all genders: e.g., use the phrase “all genders” rather than stipulate “women and men,” and use the pronoun “them” instead of “him” and/or “her.” Avoid stereotyping, and avoid prioritizing those traits and descriptions traditionally viewed as masculine.
  • Require, as part of the job criteria, a track record related to diversity. Encourage applicants to identify their strengths and experiences in increasing diversity in their previous institutional environment, and in curriculum.
  • Use commitment-to-equity statements effectively:
    • Develop an equity statement that is meaningful and applies a wide lens in defining diversity. Avoid using very general statements that the institution or program support equity or support applications from FDG members.
    • Limit using the adjective “qualified” in the equity statement, as all candidates must be qualified.
    • Provide information about the institution, community assets and resources, equity and diversity policies and action plan, accommodation policies, and family resources that would serve a diverse group and attract them to the institution.
  • Avoid creating unnecessary barriers. For example, posting internally or having limited external distribution of the job posting inherently values seniority and those who are “in the know.” Work-related assessment criteria should also apply to comparable experience in non-academic fields (e.g., government or community-based research). Do not focus solely on a strong publication record, as many academics have strong research output in oral or community-based forums (this is especially true of some Aboriginal scholars who come from cultures that value oral traditions).

C. Search for candidates

  • Advertise widely, including internationally and to professional societies and associations of designated groups (e.g., Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology; Pride at Work Canada) and relevant industry and research organizations (e.g., Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women).
  • Mandate proactive, targeted outreach whenever the position is in a job group in which members of the FDGs are underrepresented.
  • Keep track of promising students and postdoctoral researchers as they progress through their career.
  • Compensate committee members by giving them relief from other committee assignments; this will let them devote more time and resources to the hiring process, and will underscore that senior management believe conducting an open and transparent search that takes equity and diversity into consideration is important.
  • Accept a full CV, ensuring that career interruptions due to parental leave, family care, extended illness, or community responsibilities do not negatively impact the assessment of a nominee’s research productivity.
  • Search for candidates at conferences, gatherings, or other events, especially those with a topic of interest to designated groups.
  • Collect data regarding applicants who identify as members of the FDGs. Provide a clear privacy notice that indicates this data is collected to better assess how to attract applicants from the FDGs. Apply the self-identification best practices identified below.
  • Encourage the academic community and stakeholders to suggest members of the FDGs for nomination.

D. Hiring committee

  • Ensure a diverse search committee, including an equity expert whose role is to ensure equity, is considered in all aspects of the committee’s work; ideally, this member  would be the chair of the hiring committee. Alternatively, the chair can be given explicit instructions to ensure that equity and diversity concerns are raised during discussions. If it is not possible to have a hiring committee member with equity expertise, ensure the committee has an equity advisor as an ex-officio member.
  • Provide mandatory equity training for all committee members that includes instruction on how to recognize and combat unconscious, implicit, overt, prejudicial and any other kinds of bias.
  • Identify potential biases, stereotypes and micro-aggressions revealed during discussions, and support the committee members as they work through them.
  • Provide a toolkit for search committees that includes:
    • a detailed methodology for creating job descriptions that accurately identify the necessary skills, abilities, experience and qualities;
    • advice on how to evaluate applications that include nontraditional components (e.g., community-focused research), and a list of internal contacts at the institution who can provide further advice;
    • the institution’s CRC equity targets, current representation, equity commitment and action plan;
    • a list of suggested effective interview questions (as well as a list of impermissible questions);
    • accommodation considerations; and
    • key steps for making the decision-making process open and transparent.
  • Ensure the committee members are informed of the CRCP’s commitment to excellence and ensuring equal access to opportunities for all qualified candidates. Ensure that they are also aware of the institution’s equity targets and gaps.

E. Interview

  • Rank selection criteria prior to screening the applications, to ensure an unbiased, consistent and transparent selection process. Establish clear expectations with committee members before the interviews begin. Use an evaluation matrix.
  • Ensure all parts of the process are accessible. When inviting the candidate to the interview, clearly state that the institution will respect and adhere to any accommodation needs.
  • Account for differences in communication and presentation styles by using a variety of evaluation formats (e.g., a lecture or evaluation of scholarly works could complement an interview).
  • Be explicit that career breaks for family or medical needs or community responsibilities will not negatively impact the hiring decision.
  • Ask the same questions of each candidate. Do not tailor questions to an individual candidate. The interview must be as objective as possible.

F. Hiring decisions

  • Be mindful that the best-qualified candidates may not have the most years of experience, greatest number of publications, or largest number of academic accomplishments. For example, an applicant who took time away from work or studies for family-related matters may not have as many publications, but the substance and quality of that applicant’s work may render them best qualified.
  • Provide a written report to senior management on the process that led to the selection of the successful candidate, and the rationale when a member of a targeted group is unsuccessful. This rationale should be approved by the committee member with equity expertise. The report should be available to unsuccessful candidates.
  • Avoid using a candidate’s “fit” as a means to discriminate or indulge personal biases. Employment and Social Development Canada allows employers to consider “fit” when evaluating candidates, but this should be used sparingly, and only as a justification for not hiring someone when the grounds are objective and reasonable (e.g., the fact that a candidate is introverted or extroverted should not be considered when assessing their suitability for the position).
  • Consider strategic hiring when two candidates are approximately equal, meaning there are two equally qualified candidates and one is from an underrepresented group.
  • Avoid undervaluing scholarship or research that is non-traditional or unconventional; outside the mainstream of the discipline; or focused on issues of gender, race or minority status. Search committees can acquire the help of experts to assess fields with which they are unfamiliar.
  • Explicitly remind committees that the need for accommodation cannot be used as a negative in the assessment.
  • Avoid averaging productive periods across nonproductive periods, such as those required for parental, family or medical leave. For example, some immigrants may have taken longer to attain senior degrees due to the difficulties of relocating and adapting to a new country and language. This should not be viewed detrimentally.
  • Be aware of limitations the field of study may have on publishing in top-tier, mainstream platforms and attracting research funding. If the market for the research conducted is smaller, the candidate’s “numbers” may not be comparable to those for more traditional areas of research.

G. Canada Research Chair nomination

  • Review the nominee’s proposal for gendered language. Be aware research has shown that women are less likely to describe individual accomplishments.
  • Provide guidelines on how to limit the effects of letter writer bias, including that research has shown assessors are more likely to use “grindstone adjectives” (e.g., “hardworking,” “diligent,” “conscientious”) to describe women, and to reference these candidates’ personal lives, while they are more likely to use “stand-out” adjectives (e.g., “outstanding,” “superb,” “excellent”) to describe men, and to reference their CV, publications or patents.
  • Make sure career interruptions are clearly described, and that the program’s CV extension provisions are taken advantage of where possible.
  • Minimize potential bias within the research program by adhering to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Sex, Gender and Health Research Guide: A Tool for CIHR Applicants, the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Aboriginal Research Statement of Principles, where applicable.
  • Ensure a strong level of institutional support is provided to all chairholders to ensure their success (e.g., mentoring, release from certain teaching or administrative duties, additional research funds, office space, administrative support, hiring of other faculty members). Review the level of support being provided to individuals from the FDGs, to ensure they are not disadvantaged compared to other chairholders.

H. Retention and promotion

  • Ensure equity guidelines for faculty evaluation and promotion are established and reviewed by groups responsible for equity oversight at the institution.
  • Develop and implement an enhanced mentoring program that includes incentives for faculty members to serve as mentors, provides training for both mentors and mentees on how to optimize the experience, and allows for cross-departmental mentoring and emeritus faculty mentors.
  • Systematically collect data on representation from the FDGs at all levels of faculty. Monitor and analyze this data to identify any systemic barriers to advancement. Measure and report publicly on progress.
  • Conduct a climate study. Ask faculty, staff and students of every background and ability about the collegiality and climate of the institution, and how well the institution is doing in its equity and diversity work. Use the findings to gauge the institution’s effectiveness in retaining and advancing faculty members from the FDGs. Publicly define what the institution’s definition is of a healthy campus climate. Ensure the institution has made a long-term and sustainable commitment to assessing, responding to and addressing policies, programs and structural realities that affect the climate.
  • Hold information sessions about promotion, including on how panels assess promotions, and how best to prepare a CV for the process.
  • Promote the benefits of diversity to the institution. Be explicit that a variety of perspectives and identities at the institution and among faculty leads to a more academically rigorous, culturally sensitive, innovative community. The visibility of FDG members in prominent roles also positively influences students, who see a variety of role models conducting research in all disciplines.
  • Consider equity and promotion of diversity and inclusion as criteria in the deliberations for faculty awards and/or nominations.
  • Put a candidate’s evaluations in context. For example, student evaluations are subjective and could be influenced by unconscious or other biases. Gender, disability and culture could affect teaching style or the students’ perceptions of the instructor. Research shows this is especially the case for women instructors in male-dominated fields, such as engineering.
  • Identify someone at the institution who can help chairholders resolve any challenges they may face in the early years of their term.

I. Self-identification

  • When performing a survey or census, provide a definition of each designated group and then ask if the respondent self-identifies as a member of that group. Include an option for “Other,” to allow members of the community to self-identify with identity groups not listed (e.g., male, female, other).
  • Explain the purposes of the questionnaire, how the data will be used, privacy considerations, and the importance of self-identification for an accurate understanding of equity representation.
  • Be respectful of the reasons why someone may choose not to self-identify; self-identification is a choice.
  • Explicitly state privacy policy alongside the methods of protection and planned uses of any information collected.
  • Ensure senior management understand and can communicate the institution’s equity and diversity data and objectives.
  • Send an accompanying letter from the president or the vice-president of research with the equity questionnaire.
  • Designate one or more staff members to encourage respondents to self-identify; send a series of reminders.
  • Include information on rank and seniority level to be able to collect data that would indicate if there are systemic barriers to members of FDGs being promoted to senior academic positions.
  • Do not guess the gender, race, or other characteristics of a nominee. This is a violation of the individual’s right to privacy and is open to error/misrepresentation.
  • Avoid general, blanket equity statements such as, “This institution celebrates diversity and believes in creating an equal-opportunity environment.” Instead, use the equity statement to strongly emphasize the institution’s commitment to equity, and back this up with examples and/or a plan to follow through, e.g., “This institution is an advocate for equity and is committed to ensuring representation of underrepresented groups within the Canada Research Chairs Program. In the 2012 target-setting exercise, this institution met equity targets of 35 per cent chairs held by women, and 7 per cent Aboriginal chairholders. The institution seeks to increase these rates.”
  • Suppress data counts of less than five when sharing data (except with the CRCP). The ability to identify individuals is increased when the number of chairs/individuals is less than five.
  • Include non-identification rates when presenting the data, so the margin of error and reliability of the data are transparent.
  • Ensure chairholders know the importance of self-identification in helping the institution meet the equity targets, and in helping the CRCP accurately assess the program’s equity profile, and integrate this information into planning and policies.

J. Environment

  • Make hiring diverse candidates an institutional priority.
  • Set benchmarks and indicators for diversity and inclusion. Consider using the Global Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarks or the Intercultural Development Inventory to get a good sense of the diversity and inclusivity of your community and where your institution should be directing improvement efforts.
  • Establish an equity advisory committee—with staff members from a variety of areas, and with FDG members—that determines issues to tackle, designs realistic approaches to issues, and promotes faculty, management and staff commitment to equity. The committee should report directly to senior management.
  • Hold public lectures by members of the FDGs and on topics of concern to the FDGs (e.g., Women in Science lectures, Aboriginal approaches to research).
  • Incorporate images of people from diverse backgrounds in promotional tools (e.g., websites, pamphlets, photos, presentations).
  • Institute a network of approved elders, spiritual healers, and Aboriginal-focused facilities, to support those who desire these services.
  • Acknowledge the territory and land on which the institution is located, and integrate the use of Aboriginal language at events, ceremonies and meetings.
  • Ensure that Aboriginal culture and elder / Métis senator involvement is visible and viable across all aspects of the institution, not compartmentalized as an equity office or human resources initiative.
  • Maintain a list of staff and community contacts who support members of the FDGs, such as immigration consultants, accessibility services, disability management specialists, human rights advisors, faculty relations advisors, and human resource partners.
  • Provide easily accessible and appropriate resources for staff, such as on-site childcare, with nursing rooms; multifaith prayer and meditation rooms; accommodations for students, faculty and staff fasting during Ramadan; and flexibility for taking paid leave for religious obligations, rituals and celebrations.
  • Ensure strong and visible commitment to equity and diversity by the university’s leadership. Consider prominently posting a statement of commitment by the institution’s president on a diversity webpage; distribute diversity messages; disseminate public statements on diversity; and post video clips from campus leaders discussing diversity on the institution’s website.
  • Recognize efforts to advance equity and diversity in the campus community through diversity awards. These awards should be given by the institution’s president, to underscore the importance of advancing equity and diversity.
  • Monitor CRC annual reports to identify equity concerns.
  • Share best practices with the CRCP and other Canadian institutions.


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