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Employment Equity FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions relating to Employment Equity

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There are many definitions of diversity. For McMaster University, diversity encompasses race, religious belief, indigeneity, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, ancestry, age, place of origin, family status, sexual orientation, and gender identification, as well as other characteristics that shape an individual’s attitudes, behaviours and perspectives. It is at the core of our innovation and creativity, and strengthens our research and teaching excellence.

Employment equity focuses on eliminating barriers to the employment of four designated groups: women, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, peoples with disabilities, and visible minorities. McMaster has expanded that commitment to include trans persons and other members of the LGBTQ+ community.

As a process, employment equity aims to identify and eliminate discrimination in employment procedures and policies, remedy the effects of past discrimination, and ensure appropriate representation of the designated groups throughout a workforce. It is compatible with the concept of diversity; both aim to achieve and value a workforce that reflects the diverse composition of the broader community.

Employment equity is not simply an element of McMaster’s strategic plan. It is essential for building our greatest strength: the people who work every day to discover, communicate and preserve knowledge, to support our students and researchers, and to ensure the successful functioning of our University.

There are four groups selected as the focus of employment equity because their labour market experience reveals long-standing patterns of high rates of unemployment and under-employment, and concentration in low-pay and low-status jobs. The designated groups are women, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, persons with disabilities, and persons who are because of their race or colour, members of a visible minority group in Canada. McMaster has expanded its commitment beyond the four designated groups, to include trans persons and other members of the LGBTQ+ community.

No. Employment equity plans aim to change the workforce composition so that it reflects the community. Reverse discrimination occurs when a less-qualified candidate is hired. “Reverse discrimination” implies that women, racialized workers, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, LGBTQ+ persons and people with disabilities are less likely to be the right job candidates than male, white, non-First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, straight, non-disabled candidates. Research from a range of sources consistently shows that it is members from the four designated groups who face discrimination, get less access to educational programs and training, and are more frequently denied jobs and promotions when they have relevant qualifications and experience.

McMaster University continues to hire the best-qualified candidates, and employment decisions continue to be based on job performance criteria, such as skills, knowledge, and abilities. To ensure that we attract the best available candidates, efforts are made to enlarge the pool of qualified applicants from which candidates are selected. This involves advertising job vacancies more widely, encouraging applications from members of the four designated groups and LGTBQ+ candidates, and ensuring that recruitment and selection processes are bias-free.

No. Employment equity is not an exclusive process, but rather an inclusive one. It does not impose barriers on, or deny employment opportunities to, people who are not from designated groups. Instead, all applicants compete against an expanding group of candidates when applying for jobs or promotions, because employment equity seeks to give everyone an equitable opportunity to compete for jobs. Neither the federal government nor the University imposes quotas for hiring members from the four designated groups or LGBTQ+ persons.

McMaster’s Employment Equity program attempts to:

  • Collect, analyze and report on workforce data to track progress in achieving representation of Designated Group members in the spirit of both the University’s Employment Equity policy and the Federal Contractors Program;
  • Provide employees with training in the meaning and application of Employment Equity;
  • Address and mitigate systemic discrimination by identifying and removing barriers in employment policies, practices and procedures;
  • Achieve representation, where Designated Groups are under-represented, through specific recommendations for action to be undertaken by senior administrators, Special Measures, and Accommodations to enable members of Designated Groups to compete on an equitable basis for employment opportunities;
  • Pursue other initiatives to address ongoing systemic and structural gaps as identified by the University Administration (for example, develop employment equity resources, guidelines for hiring).

No. Employment equity is about hiring the best person for the job by ensuring that applicants are not ruled out by systemic barriers. It attempts to include members from the designated groups in the applicant pool so that everyone has a fair chance for employment and/or promotion. Employment equity means hiring and promoting people based on their skills and abilities to do a job. McMaster University continues to hire the best-qualified candidates, and employment decisions are based on job performance criteria, such as skills, knowledge, and abilities. Employment equity requires that we remove barriers and overcome both direct and indirect discrimination. In this way, the pool of excellent candidates increases substantially.

Our employment equity initiatives include a systematic review of employment policies and practices. Changes are made so that all current and prospective employees of equal qualification have fair access to training, retraining, job assignments, transfers, and promotions.

Employees are also encouraged to keep their employment equity census information up to date. This assists with our planning and evaluation of programming efforts.

At McMaster University, all new employees are asked to complete the Employment Equity Census, in which they are asked which, if any, equity-seeking groups they identify with. Completion of the census is voluntary and all results are kept confidential. The resulting information helps Human Resources get a clearer picture of who is employed in the workplace and how the University is doing in its progress toward equity.

Current employees can update their Employment Equity Census information at any time.

In the future, external applicants will also be able to complete the census as part of their application. As with new and current employees, information remains confidential and is not shared with managers. All personal information collected in handled in compliance with McMaster’s Statement on Collection of Personal Information and Protection of Privacy and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of Ontario (FIPPA).

Further, collecting employment equity information ensures our researchers have the opportunity to bid on and receive research contracts with the Government of Canada.

In terms of building an inclusive environment that supports employment equity, everyone has a role to play. Training will be available for all McMaster employees, including those with unique accountabilities, such as those involved in hiring and other employment processes.

The information you provide in the employment equity census provides information on the composition of the McMaster University workforce. Your answers help the University develop and maintain fair and equitable employment practices.

If you require assistance please contact the Employment Equity Specialist at or at 905-525-9140 ext. 24395.

No. The information you provide on the census is strictly confidential and maintained in an Employment Equity database. Information is presented in summary form for annual reporting purposes and is used to develop initiatives to remove barriers to employment for the designated groups.

No. The applicable legislation prohibits disclosure of information where any category includes three or fewer people, and McMaster has committed to not sharing information when there have been fewer than six respondents from an equity-seeking group.

Yes. Where appropriate, employees may identify themselves as belonging to more than one designated group. This is justified by the fact that each designated group faces particular kinds of employment barriers. A person who belongs to more than one of these groups is likely to experience multiple barriers.

McMaster’s employment equity program promotes full opportunity for all faculty and staff. Thus, by completing your census, you help McMaster expand job opportunities for all employees and ensure that McMaster treats all current and prospective employees fairly. Removing barriers opens up new opportunities for all people in the workforce. For example, organizations may find new ways to advertise jobs, so they can reach a wider pool of candidates.

Yes. At any time in the future, you can update the online census or request and submit a paper copy to the Employment Equity Specialist in the Human Resources Services office.

Yes. Even if your condition has been accommodated in McMaster’s workplace, you should still answer yes.

No. Disability is not intended to include relatively minor conditions that are experienced by large segments of the population. The determining factor is the severity of the condition and the impact it has on your ability to perform your job.

For the purposes of this survey, a sexual minority is a person who self-identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirited, or an analogous term.

For the purposes of this survey, gender minority refers to a person whose gender identity or self-expression differs from conventional expectations of masculinity or femininity. This includes people who self-identify as trans, transgender, gender-fluid, or an analogous term.

While the federal government requires information based on the four designated groups, the University’s employment equity statement includes sexual minorities and gender identity.

The Federal Contractors Program (FCP) ensures that contractors who do business with the Government of Canada seek to achieve and maintain a workforce that is representative of the Canadian workforce, including members of the four designated groups under the Employment Equity Act.

  • Women
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Members of visible minorities

Note: While LGBTQ+ communities are not a federally designated group, McMaster recognizes the systemic discrimination and equity challenges faced by members of LGBTQ+ communities.

Under the Federal Contractors Program, any organization that has or wants to have contracts with the Federal Government must have an Employment Equity Policy as well as goals and timelines for achieving a more representative workforce. The aim is to ensure that no person is denied employment opportunities and resources for reasons unrelated to ability.

The Program applies to non-federally regulated contractors that:

  • have a combined workforce in Canada of 100 or more permanent full-time and permanent part-time employees; and
  • have received an initial federal government goods and services contract, a standing offer, or a supply arrangement valued at $1 million or more (including applicable taxes).

Cant find what you're looking for? Contact us:

May-Marie Duwai-Sowa

Employment Equity Specialist

Ayo Osinowo Headshot

Ayo Osinowo

Program Coordinator, Employment Equity

Melanie Garaffa headshot

Melanie Garaffa

Associate Director, Talent, Equity and Development, Organizational Development