Creating an Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive Research Environment: A Best Practices Guide for Recruitment, Hiring and Retention

The equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) practices included in this guide have been gathered from subject matter experts, institutional equity offices, and the policies and published practices of international research funding organizations.

The Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) would like to sincerely thank the following individuals for volunteering their time and contributing their expertise to this guide:

  • Claudia Alves de Jesus-Rydin, senior program officer, European Research Council (ERC) Executive Agency, and member, ERC’s Gender Balance Working Group;
  • Jessa Chupik, executive search consultant, Partner and Leader of Education Practice, Boyden Canada;
  • Wafa El-Adhami, PhD, executive director, Science in Australia Gender Equity;
  • Uta Frith, PhD, emeritus professor of cognitive development, University College London, and chair, British Royal Society’s Diversity Committee;
  • Tracey King, MEd, Aboriginal human resources consultant, Ryerson University; and
  • members of the program’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy.

Summary of changes (March 2021):

  • a section has been added on EDI considerations when conducting interviews virtually;
  • definitions of EDI principles have been added; and
  • best practices that consider LGBTQ2+ researchers in addition to intersectionality have been added.

Summary of changes (September 2018):

  • the term Aboriginal Peoples (Constitution, 1982) has been changed to Indigenous Peoples;
  • best practices that consider Indigenous Peoples have been added; and
  • a section has been added on equity, diversity and inclusion action plans.


The Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS) manages the Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP), the Research Support Fund, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program and the New Frontiers in Research Fund. TIPS is strongly committed to achieving equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in all these programs.

TIPS defines equity as the removal of systemic barriers and biases to enact the practice of fair and equitable treatment so that all individuals have equal access to and can benefit from the programs. To achieve this, institutions must proactively identify and address systemic barriers in their policies and work environments (e.g., racism, ableism, sexism, discrimination). They must embrace diversity, defined as differences in race, colour, place of origin, religion, immigrant and newcomer status, ethnic origin, ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and age. Recognizing and valuing diversity and equity must be accompanied by concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of diverse and underrepresented 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 underrepresented groups—women, racialized minorities, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities and members of LGBTQ2+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit, plus) communities—to reach their full potential, unimpeded by inequitable practices, including personal and systemic discrimination and racism, imposed by policies, processes and research environments. It is also important to recognize that many individuals have multiple social, economic, racial or sexual identities and often face increased discrimination or systematic barriers based on their intersecting identities. This is known as intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. An intersectional approach is necessary to understand and address the specific barriers faced not only by individuals from underrepresented groups, but by individuals who are part of more than one underrepresented group.

This guide is provided as a tool for individuals and institutions as they determine how best to address areas for improvement identified when assessing their recruitment practices and work environment. For the program’s specific nomination and recruitment requirements which must be followed by all institutions when recruiting and nominating a Canada Research Chair, refer to the Requirements for recruiting and nominating Canada Research Chairs.

The guide will be updated periodically (last update March 2021). If you have additions and/or changes to suggest, please contact us at

EDI in Research

In addition to this best practices guide, TIPS has developed the Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research for the New Frontiers in Research Fund. The guide is intended to provide a general overview of systemic barriers that exist in the research ecosystem and suggest best practices to foster proactive considerations of EDI in research by principal investigators and their team members.

Part I: Recruitment and Retention

  1. Job postings
  2. Search for candidates
  3. Hiring committee
  4. Interview
  5. Virtual interviews
  6. Hiring decisions
  7. Canada Research Chair nomination
  8. Retention and promotion

Part II: Other Important Considerations

  1. Organizational allocation and planning
  2. Self-identification
  3. Environment
  4. Complaints
  5. Definitions

Part I: Recruitment and Retention

A. Job postings

  • Ensure an EDI expert reviews and approves the job posting before it is posted to confirm it aligns with best practices.
  • 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, community service, outreach, mentoring and research training, and account for non-traditional areas of research and/or research outputs.
  • Strongly encourage language that focuses on abilities over experience. Highly skilled candidates can be overlooked and not short-listed because they lack “the experience.” Candidates from underrepresented groups may lack the requisite experience not because of lack of skills, but because of leaves (e.g., parental or sick leaves) and also because of historical and systemic barriers and unconscious biases that have prevented them from gaining that experience. 
  • 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 traits and descriptions traditionally viewed as masculine (e.g., assertive, ambitious, competitive). (See the program’s guidelines for limiting unconscious bias in letters of support  for additional information on gendered language.)
  • Include information in the job posting about the department and provide web links, if available. Showcase the diversity of the students and the city or town as well as highlight any connections/initiatives with or by local Indigenous communities if applicable.
  • Require, as part of the job criteria, a track record related to EDI. Encourage applicants to identify their strengths and experiences in increasing EDI in their previous institutional environment, in curriculum, and in supporting diverse students.
  • 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 saying the institution and/or program supports equity or supports applications from individuals from underrepresented groups. Apply language that is consistent with the principles of EDI.
    • Avoid using the adjective “qualified” in the equity statement, as all candidates must be qualified.
    • Provide information about the institution, community assets and resources, EDI 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 limiting 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 and have considerable community service (this is especially true of some Indigenous scholars who may be doing research based on Indigenous ways of knowing).
  • Reach out to colleagues, students, community members and other faculties to promote the position. Consider using social media, job portals and electronic mailing lists to promote the position.

Where there is documented underrepresentation of a specific group within the institution or within the discipline of research more broadly, explore the possibilities of conducting a strategic recruitment process that is limited to candidates who will help address gaps (where aligned with provincial/territorial human rights legislation). Clearly communicate in the job posting that the process is limited as such.

B. Search for candidates

  • Advertise widely, including internationally, to professional, discipline-specific and industry-specific associations, at conferences of underrepresented groups (e.g., University Affairs Canada, Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology; Pride at Work Canada) and relevant industry and research organizations (e.g., Indigenous Professional Association of Canada, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, NationTalk). (These organizations are provided as examples only.)
  • Mandate proactive, strategic outreach to attract members of underrepresented groups.
  • Keep track of promising students and postdoctoral researchers as they progress through their career to make them aware of employment opportunities.
  • Compensate hiring 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 the importance that senior management accords an open and transparent search that takes EDI into consideration. Include measures to avoid the “equity tax.” (This is when members of underrepresented groups face greater workloads and are not compensated or recognized for this additional work and pressure on their time.)
  • 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 candidate’s research productivity. It is important that applicants know these will be taken into consideration when their applications are assessed.
  • Search for candidates through social media and at conferences, gatherings, or other events.
  • Collect disaggregated self-identification data from all applicants. Provide a clear privacy notice that indicates this data is collected to better assess how to attract applicants from underrepresented groups and the diversity of the applicant pool. Apply the self-identification best practices identified below. FAQs on the program’s self-identification form can be found here.
  • Encourage the academic community and stakeholders to approach members of underrepresented groups and suggest that they apply.
  • Assess whether the pool of applicants is sufficiently diverse (the program’s equity target percentages that are principally based on the makeup of Canada’s population could be used as target percentages, i.e., 22% racialized minorities, 4.9% Indigenous Peoples, 50.9% women and 7.5% persons with disabilities). If the pool of applicants is not large or diverse enough, extend the application deadline, or review the job posting more critically for potential barriers and re-post it.
  • Treat candidates who are not shortlisted with courtesy and respect by providing responses as swiftly as possible.
  • 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 or a person with disabilities who has a reduced workload may not have as many publications, but the substance and quality of that applicant’s work may render them best qualified.
  • Recognize the value of research outputs that are in different formats or platforms. Applicants from underrepresented groups may publish articles in non-peer-reviewed journals on issues that are important to specific communities and peoples. For example, some Indigenous applicants may be focused on producing research work to meet community needs and less so on publishing in peer- reviewed journals. Some researchers may be focused on community-based work or developing policies as this is where their research has the largest impact. This should be recognized and equally valued as peer-reviewed publications.

C. Hiring committee

  • Compile a diverse search committee, including a faculty member with EDI expertise, whose role is to ensure EDI 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 raise EDI concerns during discussions. If it is not possible to have a hiring committee member with EDI expertise, ensure an EDI advisor is a member of the committee. Ask committee members to declare any potential conflicts of interest with the candidates prior to commencing the process, and manage conflict of interest throughout.
  • Provide mandatory EDI training for all committee members that includes instruction on how to recognize and combat unconscious, implicit, overt, prejudicial and  other kinds of bias (e.g., the “dirty dozen” as explained in The Equity Myth). Other important EDI training for committee members and employees includes anti-racism, ally training, inclusive communications and workplaces, reconciliation, intersectionality, intercultural competence, accessibility and accommodations, and champions for change.
  • 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 copy of this guide;
    • the institution’s conflict of interest policy;
    • 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 research based on Indigenous ways of knowing, community-based or focused research, publications that are not peer-reviewed, etc. Provide a list of internal contacts at the institution who can provide further advice;
    • the institution’s equity targets and gaps (presented in aggregated form in all cases where numbers are less than five, as is required by the Privacy Act), EDI commitment, and EDI action plan;
    • a list of suggested effective interview questions (as well as a list of impermissible questions such as “What are your child-care responsibilities”? “Are you married?” etc.);
    • accommodation considerations, keeping in mind that accessible accommodations are often beneficial to all candidates; and
    • key steps for making the decision-making process open and transparent.

Specific practices for international recruitment:

  • If appropriate, engage a search firm with international reach and expertise in finding diverse candidates. However, use a multi-pronged approach to recruitment; in addition to using a search firm, circulate postings widely and use all networks, including social media, for communicating the post.
  • Ensure that there is sufficient time to identify an optimally diverse pool of candidates.
  • Encourage strategic thinking on how to attract international scholars who may not be looking for a new position.
  • Consider including international representation on the search and selection committees.

D. 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.
  • Apply the same assessment process to all candidates.
  • Make all parts of the process accessible. When inviting the candidate to the interview, clearly state that the institution will respect and adhere to any accommodation needs.
  • Consider providing the same accommodations to all candidates to reduce the possibility of unconscious bias by the hiring committee and to make accommodations available to those who have not requested them but would benefit from them. It is best to be proactively inclusive by structuring the process in an accessible way from the beginning.
  • Prepare the candidate for the interview in advance with information, such as how long the interview will be, who the panel members will be and the types and number of questions that will be asked.
  • Consider providing the interview questions 30-40 minutes in advance for the candidate to review beforehand.
  • 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.
  • Use the visit (if applicable) to promote the institution and community. Provide candidates with an opportunity to have a confidential discussion with staff and/or faculty members not directly involved in the search who can provide information about schools, housing, childcare, places of worship, language training or any other types of information candidates might need to envision themselves moving to the community. In addition, provide candidates with a chance to meet with undergraduate or graduate students.
  • Personalize the candidate’s visit as much as possible. Introduce the candidate to faculty with similar research interests. Consider what kinds of information and contacts would be beneficial for the candidate to know (e.g., are there faculty associations or employee resource groups composed of members of underrepresented faculty/staff or focused on EDI issues? Is there an Elder or Métis Senator who works with the institution?).
  • Provide all candidates with the same level of tailored visits and ensure that the principles of equity, fairness and transparency underlie all aspects of the recruitment and nomination.
  • Ensure that “impermissible questions” are not asked during the less formal parts of the interview process and do not use any personal information about the candidates which may be learned during this stage as part of the decision-making process (e.g., family status).
  • Ensure the method of assessing candidates is equitable. Review the method through the lens of EDI principles by:
    • challenging the notion of rewarding or overvaluing the familiar or your own disciplinary bias;
    • considering diversity of thought, method and experience; and
    • evaluating the candidates’ demonstrated commitments to EDI.

E. Virtual interviews

If a candidate is being interviewed virtually, in addition to the above:

  • Call the candidates a week ahead of the interview to explain the virtual process and troubleshoot any potential issues. Recognize that the technology may add stress to the process (as connectivity may pose an issue). Have a plan, process and back-up plan in place that all participants are aware of and understand.
  • Consider time zones and familial obligations when scheduling interviews.
  • Make sure that the committee members are familiar with the technology.
  • Provide candidates and committee members with a number they can call (such as that of the recruitment committee chair) if they are experiencing technical difficulties or if the connection is cut.
  • Check that the internet connection is strong enough to reduce the possibility of dropped calls or lagging video/audio.
  • Use a platform that is accessible to all candidates. Consider barriers such as cost and geographic restrictions, as well as communication accommodations:  for instance, specialized technology for those with hearing difficulties. Also make sure that the candidate can clearly see each of the committee members during the length of the interview and, in particular, the lips of the committee members when they are speaking.
  • Ask the candidate how the connectivity is before beginning the interview and remind them of the number to call if they experience technical difficulties. Explain how any technical issues will be dealt with prior to starting (for example, rescheduling the interview if the connection is very bad, muting the video and the audio of the committee members to help improve connectivity if necessary).
  • During the interview, mute the microphone of those who are not speaking to minimize background noise and look into the camera (not at the screen). Body language of the committee members is important for the candidate to see in these types of situations. All committee members should introduce themselves and make sure the candidate can see all members at all times (each member will need to position their cameras accordingly). If there are connectivity issues that require cameras to be turned off, ensure that the camera of at least one of the committee members is left on.
  • Committee members should focus on the interview and the candidate and take efforts to minimize any interruptions or distractions from others.   

F. Hiring decisions

  • Provide a written report to senior management on the process that led to the selection of the successful candidate. If the hiring committee was conducting a focused hiring process (that is, limited to individuals from underrepresented groups to address underrepresentation), it should also provide the rationale of why a member(s) of the underrepresented group was unsuccessful. The Chair or committee member who is the EDI champion should approve this rationale.
  • Avoid using subjective criteria such as a candidate’s “fit” in the assessment, as these can reflect the personal biases of committee members. For example, the fact that a candidate is introverted or extroverted should not be considered when assessing their suitability for the position.
  • Consider strategic hiring (where aligned with provincial human/territorial human rights legislation, as applicable), meaning that the position is limited to individuals from underrepresented groups to address underrepresentation.
  • Avoid undervaluing scholarship or research that is non-traditional or unconventional, outside the mainstream of the discipline, or focused on issues of gender, ethnicity or ability. 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 against a candidate in the assessment process.
  • Avoid averaging productive periods across non-productive 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. In addition, many Indigenous scholars are completing their senior degrees later in life and can take longer to complete them due to familial, socio-economic or other reasons.
  • 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 research areas.

G. Canada Research Chair nomination

  • Review the nominee’s research proposal for gendered language. Be aware research has shown that women and Indigenous Peoples are less likely to describe individual accomplishments.
  • Provide guidelines on how to limit the effects of letter writer bias. Research has shown that 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. This can reinforce unconscious biases and negatively impact the career progression of women.
  • Make sure career interruptions are clearly described, and that, for the CRCP, 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 and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Indigenous Research Statement of Principles, where applicable. Employ some of the best practices outlined in the New Frontier in Research Fund’s Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research.
  • Provide a strong level of institutional support to all chairholders to ensure their success (e.g., mentoring for more junior researchers, 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 underrepresented groups, to confirm they are not being disadvantaged compared to other chairholders. Research has shown that pay inequities and gaps continue to persist in academia. For example, with Indigenous chairholders the institution will need to be supportive and sensitive to familial issues, community responsibilities and Indigenous values, traditions, cultural norms, ceremonies and practices, such as leave for cultural and bereavement reasons. Do not take funds needed to accommodate a chairholder from research funding (i.e., researchers with disabilities should have equal amount of research funding and access to funding needed for accommodations).
  • Consider dual career issues. One barrier to recruiting and retaining in academia is a candidate considering their partner’s career. Institutions should consider what they are prepared to offer should the candidate have a partner who also needs employment (e.g., a position in the institution, paying fees for a human resources company to assist the partner in finding a job, etc.).
  • Institutional leadership should put in place measures to ensure that candidates from underrepresented groups receive offers just as generous as those that overrepresented candidates receive (attention should be given to where candidates start on the salary scale). It is the institution’s responsibility to make sure that there is no pay gap.
  • Take into account different negotiating styles. It is important to review the different negotiating styles employed by persons of different genders, and persons with different cultural backgrounds so that these do not lead to inequities in levels of support.
  • Ensure salary and start-up packages, as well as research support, is comparable across chairs (taking into account disciplinary differences).

H. Retention and promotion

  • Ensure EDI guidelines for faculty evaluation and promotion are established and reviewed by groups responsible for EDI 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.
  • Recognize that mentorship is often an additional responsibility asked of faculty members from underrepresented groups and take appropriate steps to ensure that these individuals do not shoulder a disproportionate amount of the work. Recognize as well that often members of underrepresented groups will informally mentor a large number of students because they are “the only ones: in their faculty or department (and sometimes their entire institution as with Black and Indigenous faculty) and they feel a responsibility to support and mentor students from underrepresented groups.
  • Systematically collect disaggregated self-identification data at all levels of faculty using best practices. Monitor and analyze this data to identify any potential systemic barriers to advancement. Measure and report publicly on progress (e.g., set firm targets for the representation of the underrepresented groups and develop a strategy to achieve them).
  • Conduct environmental scans regularly (annual or biennial) to identify systemic barriers. Survey faculty, staff and students of every background and ability about the institution’s collegiality and climate and how well it is doing in its EDI work. Use the findings to identify systemic barriers and address them
  • Publicly define what the institution’s definition of a healthy campus climate is. The institution should make a long-term and sustainable commitment to assessing, responding to and addressing policies, programs and structural realities that affect the climate and potentially prevent inclusion of underrepresented faculty members.
  • 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 within 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 and innovative research community. The visibility of individuals from underrepresented groups in prominent roles also positively influences students, who see a diversity of role models conducting research across all disciplines.
  • Consider promotion of EDI principles in an individual’s work as criteria in the deliberations for faculty awards and/or nominations.
  • Put a candidate’s teaching evaluations in context. For example, student evaluations are subjective and often are influenced by unconscious or other biases. Gender, disability, race, language ability (i.e., working in a second or third language) and culture could affect teaching style or the students’ perceptions of the instructor. Research shows this is especially the case for female/non-binary or trans 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.
  • Ensure the institution has policies to swiftly and effectively address instances of hate speech, violence, harassment and other forms of discrimination against all underrepresented groups. These policies must protect members of the community who are subject to aggressions.

Part II: Other Important Considerations

I. Organizational allocation and planning

  • Consider EDI when assessing organizational needs, goals and risks. Include inclusive practices to increase the participation of underrepresented groups as part of the development of strategic plans. Ask questions such as:
    • Are there members of underrepresented groups in senior leadership and research roles?
    • Are there members of underrepresented groups serving as role models for underrepresented members of the institution’s community?
    • Are there members of underrepresented groups acting as mentors for faculty and students?
    • Are there people of diverse intersecting identities in these same roles?
    • How does the organization determine how it gives out its leadership awards and celebrates and recognizes EDI achievements?
    • How is key messaging about the importance of EDI to research excellence disseminated at all levels of the institution? How is this messaging reinforced by tangible actions?
    • Are there public accountability and transparency measures in place?
  • Create a senior leadership position with responsibilities that include:
    • providing advice to senior management on how best to take EDI into account in planning and procedures;
    • establishing education and outreach tools to promote and sustain an inclusive and diverse environment on the campus at large;
    • creating resources and offering EDI training on the needs and realities of members of underrepresented groups;
    • promoting the value of EDI, especially as it relates to fostering excellent research; and
    • organizing events to celebrate and promote EDI.
  • Include actions to promote EDI as part of every senior leader’s performance assessment.
  • Communicate EDI objectives to all faculty, administrators, students and student associations. Additionally, implement an accountability mechanism and share this mechanism broadly with the community.
  • Evaluate the performance of deans, department heads, and vice-presidents, in part, on how well they implement EDI principles and best practices in their work. Include actions to promote EDI in performance plans for middle-management.
  • Implement annual mandatory EDI training (e.g., anti-racism training and training on reconciliation) for all individuals who are part of the management team.
  • Review current policies, practices and procedures through an EDI and intersectional lens to identify potential gaps, areas for improvement and areas of strength in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups.
  • Retain documentation about the merit basis of all candidates and appointments and hiring decisions, and highlight research excellence in public communications about appointments. Such communications will strengthen messaging that members of underrepresented groups have earned their chair appointments through scholarly merit.

J. Self-identification

  • When performing a survey or census, provide a definition of each designated group, including LGBTQ2+ identities, and then ask if the respondent self-identifies as a member of that group. Options should be inclusive (e.g., man, woman, gender neutral, non-binary, trans man, trans woman, Two-Spirit) and each question should provide the option to not respond.
  • Collect disaggregated data for all groups to identify any systemic barriers within policies and processes.
  • 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 a privacy policy alongside the methods of protection and planned uses of any information collected.
  • Ensure senior management (as well as union representatives) 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.
  • Consider creating a video (with closed captioning) on employee diversity and self-identification. Ask designated management and staff of diverse backgrounds to participate as champions, to explain the importance of self-identification and encourage respondents to self-identify. Consider having a periodic self-identification campaign.
  • Designate one or more staff members to encourage respondents to self-identify; send a series of reminders.
  • Clearly communicate how all individuals can change their self-identification data if they so choose.
  • Include information on rank and seniority level to be able to collect data that would indicate if there are systemic barriers to members of underrepresented groups being promoted to senior academic positions.
  • Never guess or assume 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. Do not rely upon assumptions about a person’s identity (if they choose not to self-identify). Do not “identify” candidates based on physical appearance.
  • Avoid general, blanket equity statements such as, “This institution celebrates diversity and believes in creating an equal-opportunity environment.” Instead, use the statement to strongly emphasize the institution’s commitment to equity, and back this up with examples and/or a plan to follow through. For example, “This institution is an advocate for equity and is committed to ensuring its community is diverse and inclusive. We welcome applications from members of racialized minorities, women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, persons of various sexual orientations and gender identities, and others with the skills and knowledge to productively engage with diverse communities and contribute to the institution’s research excellence. The institution seeks to maintain its commitment to excellence and recognizes that increasing the diversity of its faculty and ensuring an inclusive environment supports this objective.”
  • Suppress data counts of less than five when sharing or publishing data. The ability for others 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.
  • See the CRCP’s Self-Identification Form and FAQs for more information.

K. Environment

  • Ensure that the institutions’ EDI activities are not tokenistic or performative by ensuring that they are well resourced. Take action to make progress on EDI at all levels of the institution.
  • Make hiring diverse candidates an institutional priority, in particular at the senior management level.
  • Communicate a shared responsibility for EDI efforts across the institution.
  • Set benchmarks and indicators for diversity and inclusion. Consider using the Global Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarks or the Intercultural Development Inventory to gauge the diversity and inclusivity of the institution’s community and where the institution should be directing improvement efforts.
  • Monitor, with an intersectional lens, how many faculty are on contract; which faculty advance and the amount of time it takes to advance to tenure. Monitor what is requested of faculty from underrepresented groups in the tenure process to ensure that expectations are not higher than for other faculty members.
  • Report on the diversity of senior leaders at the institution.
  • Establish an EDI advisory committee—with staff members from a range of areas, and with underrepresented groups—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 underrepresented groups on topics of concern to these groups (e.g., Women in Science, Indigenous approaches to research, Black scholars, Pride Week).
  • Create a safe space for people who are not always seen and heard to feel comfortable participating in conversations. For example, an institution may want to have interactive seminars on EDI topics held during lunch times to enable faculty, staff and students to participate.
  • Assess the institution’s communications strategy and its impact on EDI efforts (e.g., promote accomplishments of faculty from underrepresented groups, incorporate quotes from faculty and students from underrepresented groups in promotional materials, organize a lecture series that underscores the research excellence of equity-deserving groups).
  • Always secure the permission of individuals when using their images in promotional tools such as websites, social media, pamphlets, photos and presentations.
  • Institute a network of approved Elders, traditional Knowledge Keepers, traditional healers, and Indigenous-focused facilities, to support those who desire these services.
  • Acknowledge the traditional Indigenous land on which the institution is located, and integrate the use of Indigenous language at events, ceremonies and meetings.
  • Ensure Indigenous culture and Elder / Métis Senator involvement is visible and viable across all aspects of the institution, not compartmentalized in an equity office or human resources initiative.
  • Develop the institution’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action by conducting extensive consultations to implement specific plans and initiatives.
  • Maintain a list of staff and community contacts who support members of underrepresented groups, such as immigration consultants, on- and off- reserve Indigenous organizations, Black community organizations, accessibility services, disability management specialists, human rights advisors, faculty relations advisors, medical clinics, including mental health specialists, and human resource partners.
  • Provide easily accessible and appropriate resources for staff, such as on-site childcare with nursing rooms; multi-faith prayer and meditation rooms; accommodations for students, faculty and staff fasting during Ramadan; non-gendered bathrooms, and flexibility for taking paid leave for religious obligations, cultural celebrations and ceremonies.
  • Ensure strong and visible commitment to EDI by the institution’s leadership. Consider posting prominently a statement of commitment by the institution’s president on a diversity web page; 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 EDI in the campus community through diversity awards. These awards should be given by the institution’s president to underscore the importance of advancing EDI.
  • Monitor annual reports to identify and address EDI concerns.
  • Share best practices with other Canadian institutions.
  • Avoid tokenism. Underrepresented groups within an organization may face tokenism that could include being asked to serve on an advisory or search committee to represent a diverse opinion, being a faculty advisor for an underrepresented student group, or mentoring students based on the identity of the students and faculty member, and not the area of study. Some of these practices have positive consequences, but also place additional demands on faculty (the equity tax). In addition, the activity may be tokenistic if there is not the ability to voice concerns and/or if those concerns are not listened to and acted upon. In order to achieve EDI, concerted efforts should be made to develop trusting and respectful relationships between the leadership of the institution and individuals from underrepresented groups.
  • Do not make assumptions about a researcher’s personal characteristics based on their research area.

L. Complaints

  • Implement and communicate a formal process by which the institution manages complaints from its chairholders/faculty related to EDI.
  • Publish the contact information of an individual or individuals at the institution responsible for addressing any EDI-related concerns or complaints.
  • Implement a mechanism to monitor and address concerns/complaints. Submit an annual report to senior management.
  • When developing a complaints system for EDI concerns, institutions should:
    • Understand that a robust complaint system is an important part of EDI work. Complaints shed light on areas upon which an institution can improve.
    • Eliminate formal barriers to filing and following through with a complaint such as eliminating or limiting time restrictions on when complaints can be made, addressing concerns in a timely and thorough way, etc.
    • Understand that some complainants may feel that they are not really heard but instead “filed away” (see Sara Ahmed’s work on complaints) or that they may not be believed. Remember that a complaint is a record of a person’s experience. Take steps to show a complainant that they are heard and take action accordingly.
    • Be aware of the language used that may undercut the complaints (e.g., valid complaints, alleged instance, etc.)
    • Focus not just on applying a process, but on reaching a solid resolution. Invite parties to mediation, but also support them at all stages of the complaint resolution.
    • Have a senior official meet with the person submitting a complaint. This senior official should have training on conflict management and active listening.
  • Make sure information about the complaint process is easy to find on websites. 
  • Take steps to ensure that complaints are not used against complainants by supporting the person filing a complaint and ensuring they do not face retaliation.
  • Maintain confidentiality at all times.
  • When the timely resolution of the complaint mandates that a third party be informed, communicate to the complainant when this person will be informed of the complaint.
  • When closing a complaint file, make sure the reasons are documented and shared with all parties. Review the reasons with an EDI lens. Share the appeals process along with the decision, if applicable.
  • Investigate consistent complaints. When the same complaint or similar complaints are raised this likely points to a systemic barrier or significant challenge at the institution that should be addressed. However, a single complaint can also indicate a systemic barrier.

M. Definitions

This guide provides the definitions for EDI principles and terms.

Ableism: Discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities.

Colonialism: A practice of cultural and economic domination, which involves the subjugation and oppression of one people over another. Settler colonialism—such as in the case of Canada— is the unique process where the colonizing population does not leave the territory, asserts ongoing sovereignty to the land, actively seeks to assimilate the Indigenous populations and extinguish their cultures, traditions and ties to the land.

Heteronormativity: A cultural or social framework, often implicit, in which all human beings are heterosexual and this is the norm. Heteronormativity leads to the marginalization of sexual minorities either by dismissing them, by presenting a favourable bias towards heterosexual people, or both.

Homophobia: The fear or hatred of, or hostility towards homosexuals and homosexuality, as well as prejudices against them.

Intersectionality: A theoretical framework that was developed by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 in a paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum entitled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics” to explain how African-American women face overlapping disadvantages and discrimination related to sexism and racism. This approach or lens is a best practice and assists researchers to better understand and address the multiple barriers and disadvantages that individuals with intersecting social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality and class, face. Using an intersectional approach to develop policies and research projects helps to better identify and address systemic barriers.

LGBTQ2+: An acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit. The plus indicates that this list is not exhaustive as there is a spectrum of gender and sexuality.

Microaggression: Refers to brief and common verbal, behavioural or institutional actions that play into stereotypes or discrimination against a group of people, often from underrepresented groups. First coined by Dr. Chester M. Pierce in his 1970s research looking at the experiences of Black Americans, research on microaggressions has since expanded to examine the experiences of Indigenous Peoples, people with disabilities, women, LGBTQ2+ people and a number of racial, ethnic and religious groups. Taken in isolation, one instance of microaggression can seem like a minor event; however, members of underrepresented groups often experience the same microaggression repeatedly over time, producing adverse emotional, social, psychological and health impacts (trauma) which can also affect their level of productivity and sense of inclusion at work. Examples of microaggression include implying a member of an underrepresented group is an “equity hire”; asking where someone is ”really from”; downplaying the effects of race, gender, ability, etc. on lived experiences; implying that someone’s reaction is due to sensitivity, not the nature of the situation they are in.

Racism: Any individual action, or institutional practice which treats people differently because of their colour or ethnicity. This distinction is often used to justify discrimination.

Systemic barriers: Systems, policies or practices that result in some individuals from underrepresented groups receiving unequal access to or being excluded from participation within employment, services or programs. These barriers are systemic in nature, meaning that they result from institutional level practices, policies, traditions and/or values that may be “unintended” or “unseen” but that have serious and long-lasting impacts on the lives of those affected, such as on their career trajectories.

Sexism: Prejudice or discrimination based on sex.

Tokenism: Defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly.”

Unconscious bias: An implicit attitude, stereotype, motivation or assumption that can occur without one’s knowledge, control or intention. Unconscious bias is a result of one’s life experiences and affects all types of people. Everyone carries implicit or unconscious biases. Examples of unconscious bias include gender bias, cultural bias, race/ethnicity bias, age bias, language and institutional bias. Decisions made based on unconscious bias can compound over time to significantly impact the lives and opportunities of others who are affected by the decisions one makes.


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