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Diversity and representation thin out significantly among the senior ranks at Canada’s biggest banks, new federal data reveal.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment and Social Development Canada released a database Friday that discloses 2021 data on employment and pay equity among women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and racialized people across federally regulated private-sector industries. Canada is the first country in the world to make this level of information publicly available, according to ESDC.

The online portal, Equi’Vision, parses work-force representation rates and pay gaps among the members of four groups: banking, financial services, transportation and communications.

The data does not include employees of federal government agencies.

“It’s one thing to say that you have to be transparent and then just bury this information somewhere in your information circular,” said Sarah Kaplan, the founding director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy and a professor at the Rotman School of Management. “It’s another thing to have it available on a dashboard in a searchable database where you can look up different companies and you can compare them against industry. This is exactly what we mean by transparency.”

Canada’s largest lenders – which include Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and National Bank of Canada – are some of the country’s biggest employers. While many of the banks have employee acquisitions and development strategies to attract a diversity of talent, there are still gaps in representation in their work forces.

Equi’Vision separates pay data between salaries, bonuses and overtime hours. In financial services, women earn 82 cents per hour on average for every dollar men make. Indigenous and racialized people make 89 cents per hour on average for every dollar employees outside those groups earn. And people with disabilities earn 97 cents for every dollar people without disabilities earn.

Overall, women make up 55 per cent of the financial services industry, while racialized people compose 40 per cent, people with disabilities, 6.2 per cent, and Indigenous people, 1.5 per cent.

Those numbers drop in the senior leadership ranks and the full-time employee category.

In senior management, women account for just 38 per cent of employees. Racialized people make up 22 per cent, while both persons with disabilities and Indigenous people compose just 0.8 per cent.

The data also show that the representation of women, Indigenous people and people with disabilities is higher among part-time employees and falls slightly in the full-time segment. While many bank employees are full-time staff who work in offices and manage client portfolios, branches and call centres rely on part-time employees to work evenings and weekends.

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Women account for 74 per cent of part-time employees in financial services. Indigenous people compose 2.4 per cent, and persons with disabilities, 6.9 per cent.

“There’s a whole bunch of jobs at the bottom of banks in terms of pay scale, like just tellers, and those jobs are filled by a lot of women and a lot of people of colour, and there’s not a lot of growth opportunities from teller to more senior management,” Prof. Kaplan said.

Banks, along with other industries, have faced pressure to fill gaps in employment and pay equity. In recent years, shareholders have called on public companies to produce racial-equity audits in response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

In the United States, major banks including Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. have already conducted such audits.

In December, TD became the first Canadian bank to unveil a racial-equity audit after shareholder advocacy groups urged the banks to conduct their own investigations.

CIBC, National Bank, RBC and BMO have also said they plan to conduct reviews. Shareholders have not yet filed a proposal with Scotiabank.

Companies and government agencies need to provide better support for marginalized groups to help break down barriers, Prof. Kaplan said. In particular, all employees would benefit from more access to affordable caregiving services, such as the federal government’s $10-a-day daycare program, and more flexible corporate and cultural policies, she said.

The Canadian Bankers Association said that, along with building equitable workplaces, lenders are committed to partnering with government and other groups to help develop the country’s talent pool.

“Diversity, inclusion, and equity represent the brightest way forward for Canadian businesses and for making our country a better place,” CBA spokesperson Mathieu Labrèche said in a statement. “To that end, Canada’s banks are continuing to invest in a more equitable future by ensuring the leaders of tomorrow have enhanced opportunities today.”

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