Women and Gender Equality Canada
Letter on Implementation of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion

Summer 2021 update

Dear Mrs. Charette,

I am writing in response to the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service issued by the Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr. Ian Shugart, in January 2021. This letter provides an account of how Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) is progressing on commitments identified in the Call to Action and shares lessons learned through this work.

Equity, diversity, and inclusion are at the core of the mandate of WAGE. Officials in the department apply Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus) in the work we do and decisions we make – considering our policies, programs, and practices through an intersectional lens to address systemic barriers and inequities, including systemic racism; unconscious bias; gender-based discrimination; barriers for persons with disabilities; discrimination against LGBTQ2 communities; and inequities faced by Indigenous peoples.

We also apply this intersectional lens when gathering diverse perspectives to inform our work, which is why, in the development of our actions, we gathered diverse perspectives among employees. Managers at all levels of the organization met; we held a Town Hall with all staff dedicated to diversity and inclusion; had meetings with departmental committees representing diverse equity-seeking groups, including virtual coffee chats; and conducted three Pulse Surveys of employees. We also reviewed the results of the 2020 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) for the department.

Action taken and results achieved

Over the past year, the department has taken action in three key areas: (a) establishing a culture of inclusiveness that values diversity, combats racism and addresses systemic barriers; (b) increasing the representation of Black, racialized, and Indigenous employees, as well as persons with disabilities, within all levels of the organization; and (c) ensuring that our departmental policies, programs, and practices are inclusive, free of systemic racism and barriers, and accessible.

Establishing a culture of inclusiveness

To establish a culture of inclusiveness within the organization, our actions focused on fostering positive and safe environments for all staff; implementing learning opportunities for staff, managers and executives; and enabling diverse community networks within the department. 

This past year, the department implemented mandatory anti-racism and anti-oppression training, which was completed by all WAGE employees, based on recommendations from the department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. In addition, we introduced mandatory training and coaching for all executives on unconscious bias. All executives completed an Intercultural Development Inventory assessment, which was then used to guide their one-on-one coaching session, following a training session on recognizing and combatting unconscious bias. 

We also organized several activities to promote a culture of inclusion within the department, including a special townhall to commemorate Black History Month, virtual activities to celebrate Asian Heritage Month, and two brave space discussions and healing circles to address the hurt and trauma among employees caused by the deaths of George Floyd and Joyce Echaquan.

To help identify and implement these efforts throughout the year, the department supported various networks representing equity-seeking groups, including a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Indigenous Advisory Network, Official Languages Committee, and Young Professionals Network (see Annex A for descriptions of mandates). We allocated dedicated resources to support these networks and made spaces for the voices of these employees to be heard on a regular basis at the Executive Committee. The networks worked together and with various Branches of the department, including, for example, Human Resources.

We are encouraged by the results of the 2020 PSES regarding anti-racism, diversity and inclusion. In the 2020 PSES, over 80% of the employees have indicated that ours is a culture where every individual is accepted as an equal member of the team, where people value individual ideas and opinions, and where people behave in a respectful manner. Over 80% of staff also reported that the department was taking action to support a diverse workplace. Nearly 90% of staff reported that they feel comfortable speaking freely about racism without fear of reprisal and recognized the action the department was taking to promote anti-racism in the workplace. The department’s 2020 PSES results also revealed a decrease from 2019 with respect to harassment (5% decrease) and discrimination (2% decrease), standing at 9% and 7% respectively, below or at par with the public service.

Increasing representation

As we worked to ensure an inclusive culture, the department also acted to increase representation and reflect diversity at all levels of the organization, through recruitment, appointments, and employee development. 

The department collected data on employment equity groups within the department. As of March 31, 2021, employment equity data from among WAGE’s 292 indeterminate employees and term employees of three months or more showed that WAGE is exceeding or meeting the workforce availability for women (85.6%) and visible minorities (16.8%).  However, representation for Indigenous employees and employees with disabilities were below workforce availability, standing at 3.1% and 3.4% respectively.  More detailed data on employment equity groups representation at WAGE is presented in Annex B to this letter.

This past year, all hiring managers within WAGE had commitments in their performance agreements to actively support the recruitment and retention of Black, racialized, and Indigenous employees, as well as employees with disabilities. To do this, we leveraged targeted recruitment programs, including: the Federal Internship Program for Newcomers (1 staff hired), the Federal Internship Program for Persons with Disabilities (1 staff hired), the Indigenous Student Employment Opportunity (8 staff hired), the Employment Opportunity for Students with Disabilities (2 staff hired), and the Visible Minority Student Program (10 staff hired). We worked collaboratively with larger departments to leverage staffing processes specifically targeting Black, racialized, and Indigenous employees. In addition, the department used flexibilities in human resource policies to recruit employment equity group members, such as using non-imperative appointments, where appropriate, to enable the hiring of designated group members.

To identify and address systemic barriers in our hiring practices for diverse employees, the department engaged our Diversity and Inclusion Committee and our 2020 student cohort to undertake a GBA Plus of all hiring policies, tools, and practices. As a result of this GBA Plus, the department made a number of modifications to its tools and practices, including: modifying job ads to remove unnecessary qualifications; modifying how, when and where interviews are conducted to create a more inclusive space for diverse employees; ensuring all selection boards were representative of diversity; and developing a Hiring Guide for all hiring managers, which shared best practices for inclusive hiring, both in a virtual and in-person setting.

To support the career development of employees, including diverse employees, the department implemented a mentorship program through the Young Professionals Network. Early career mentees have been matched with mentors from among the department’s senior management team. In addition, an official languages training strategy was put in place in the fall of 2020 to reduce barriers to promotion for all employees, including diverse employees. This strategy encourages managers to go beyond job-specific language requirements and to equip their employees with the necessary language skills to develop careers in the public service. To date, 69 employees have benefitted from this training. 

Updating departmental policies, programs, and practices

Over the past year, the department made a concerted effort to address systemic discrimination, racism and barriers to accessibility and disability inclusion within all internal operational policies, programs, and initiatives. In March 2020, WAGE was able to shift to a virtual work environment in response to the pandemic. Almost all employees have been working remotely, with the exception of a small number whose work required physical presence. Measures were put in place to identify and accommodate employees’ virtual workspace needs and to ensure accessibility standards were being met, including, for example, by providing hearing impaired staff with closed captioning software for all virtual meetings. As the department plans for an eventual return to the worksite and the future of work, three Pulse Surveys have gathered information on factors that could influence the nature and place of work for employees, as well as employee mental health and wellness while working virtually. The survey collected disaggregated identity data from employees to allow for analyses of how different groups of people have been/may be affected by virtual work, including Indigenous and racialized employees, as well as employees with disabilities. These data are being used to ensure the needs of diverse staff are met while working virtually, and that an eventual return-to-worksite plan reflects the perspectives and realities of diverse staff, while respecting operational requirements.

In addition, the department conducted a GBA Plus of departmental policies and practices and a review of the application of accessibility standards within the department. These standards align with Nothing without Us: An accessibility strategy for the Public Service of Canada. As part of this review, the department is constructing two gender-inclusive washrooms and is ensuring the design meets accessibility standards. Several modifications were also made to WAGE offices to render them more accessible, including the installation of touchless doors and the installation of windowpanes around solid doors. In addition, as a result of these analyses, new employees are now asked about accessibility requirements and pronouns once hired. Finally, because of our review, all departmental staff were provided guidance on the creation of accessible documents and the software with which to ensure documents for internal and external communication are fully accessible.

As part of ensuring that departmental policies, programs, and practices are inclusive and free of systemic racism and barriers, WAGE’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Indigenous Advisory Network, and Young Professionals Network have been engaged in the review and implementation of WAGE initiatives. For example, to guide departmental work, the department, in collaboration with the Indigenous Advisory Network, developed and distributed to staff a Reconciliation Framework with principles and key areas of action to ensure a culturally safe environment for Indigenous employees and to ensure that systemic barriers to recruitment, retention and development are removed. In addition, GBA Plus training is mandatory for all WAGE employees and new tools to support the application of GBA Plus were distributed to all WAGE employees in June 2021. These initiatives help to ensure that our policies and practices are informed by diverse community needs and are free of systemic discrimination and barriers.

Maintaining momentum and building on lessons learned

Over the past year, as the department has taken action to create an inclusive culture, increase representation at all levels, and remove systemic discrimination and barriers from our policies and practices, we have learned many lessons. As we engaged in this work together, we celebrated successes and had conversations about the challenges we encountered. 

The progress and impact of this work can be attributed to several success factors. First, engaging diverse employee networks and communities and hearing from individual employees was critical to acquiring knowledge to support deeper understanding of complex issues and experiences, and sparking conversations to inform meaningful action. Equally important was the allocation of dedicated resources to these diverse employee networks so that this important work was adequately supported and so that already-marginalized groups did not feel further disadvantaged. The support of these networks to the work of the department was also acknowledged in all committee members’ year-end performance agreements. Many employees shared that the acknowledgement of the work through adequate resources and through individual performance appraisals demonstrated commitment and support to this work at the highest levels of the organization.

Second, while enabling the work of grassroots networks and communities within the department and providing necessary resources were important, so too was creating space for these voices to be heard by bringing them into discussions at senior executive tables. Regularly, at our Executive Committee meetings, employees representing grassroots networks and communities were invited to provide updates on initiatives and to engage in conversations about difficult issues. These conversations were critical for ensuring the department was on a good path to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and to holding ourselves accountable. 

Finally, concerted, department-wide efforts, along with strong commitment and leadership, were necessary to generate momentum. Important to this success was embedding commitments to this work in the performance agreements of employees at every level of the organization. Also critical was training and tools for all staff so that inclusive mindsets could be established and brought to bear on all work of the department.

While it is important to share these success factors so others can learn from them, it is likewise important to recognize the challenges we faced in doing this work. First, to monitor progress on our efforts to increase representation, better data is required. Challenges persist with respect to the completion of self-identification forms by staff. In speaking with staff at WAGE over the past year, we have come to understand the sources of these challenges, including: the current wording of the forms, which do not adequately represent how individuals identify; fear of how the data will be used or the implications of identifying oneself in a particular way; and lack of awareness of when, where, and how to access the forms. To address these challenges, over the past year, the department increased communication with staff about where and how to access the forms, as well as how the data is used to improve the workplace culture and monitor progress. In addition, the department implemented other methods to collect self-identification data, including Pulse Surveys that were designed in collaboration with diverse staff so that questions were more inclusive and better reflected the realities of employees. 

Second, establishing a culture of inclusion requires building mutual trust and understanding, which could be challenging in a virtual environment. To address this barrier, the department leveraged innovative networking and collaboration tools for virtual work and implemented weekly activities to keep people connected while working physically apart. As we look to the future of work in the public service, post-pandemic, these innovations will be critical to maintaining momentum and fostering a truly inclusive culture.

Building on our progress, the department has identified four areas of action over the coming year. First, the department will develop a new staffing plan to increase diversity at all levels of the organization, which will take into consideration new resources to the department from Budget 2021. The plan will include targets for each of the employment equity groups of, at a minimum, the workforce availability for each group. The plan will include actions to achieve these targets and to monitor progress. An important foundation to this plan will also be improving the collection of self-identification data from our employees. We will launch a self-identification form awareness campaign in fall 2021. Second, the department will be undertaking an employment-systems review to further eliminate systemic barriers and discrimination in our employment practices, tools, and policies. Third, we will continue to foster an inclusive culture through education and brave conversations. Over the next year, we will be implementing Positive Space training, Indigenous cultural awareness training, and accessibility training for all staff. Finally, to sustain our momentum over the longer term, the department will be developing a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, grounded in the voices of diverse employees.

Through these actions, the department will continue to build an equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization that will enable us to leverage top talent in service to Canadians.   


Guylaine Roy
Deputy Minister of Women and Gender Equality

Women and Gender Equality Canada – Annex A

Descriptions of committees and networks of diverse employees at WAGE

Diversity and Inclusion Committee

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee aims to implement initiatives to increase diverse representation and support inclusion in the department; raise awareness about diversity and inclusion and the challenges diverse staff face; celebrate diversity at WAGE; and provide departmental staff a forum for discussing contemporary issues related to social inclusion.

Indigenous Advisory Network

The Indigenous Advisory Network is comprised of Indigenous employees within WAGE. It serves as a platform and community to provide advice and mentoring to one another, to support and foster wellness among Indigenous employees, to provide opportunity for professional development, and to tap into and leverage other networks and relevant resources.

Official Languages Committee

The Official Languages Committee aims to support the Deputy Minister in: ensuring the public's and employees’ language rights are respected, the needs of official language minority communities are considered and opportunities for promoting both languages in Canadian society are seized. The Committee is comprised of employees in the department representing both official language communities.

Young Professionals Network

The Young Professionals Network offers members, including diverse employees, a space to engage in WAGE’s workplace culture and positively contribute to a collective experience as public servants; provides opportunities for continuous learning and mentorship to develop into the leaders of tomorrow; connects members to current departmental, interdepartmental or government-wide initiatives; and improves workplace wellness for young and early career public servants.

Women and Gender Equality Canada – Annex B

Representation of Employment Equity Groups as of March 31, 2021* 

WAGE Employees (Indeterminate and terms of more than three months)



Persons with disabilities

Members of visible minorities



WAGE Representation

Workforce Availability




WAGE Representation

Workforce Availability




WAGE Representation

Workforce Availability




WAGE Representation

Workforce Availability
























*Data shown are based on self-identification

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