Read below for frequently asked questions about the Employment Equity survey.

Frequently Asked Questions – Employment Equity

1. What is employment equity?

Employment Equity is a program legislated by the federal Employment Equity Act and the Federal Contractors Program to remove barriers to employment for Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, visible minorities and women. UBC includes questions related to sexual minorities and gender identity as part of its overall equity program, including employment equity.

Like many equity initiatives, employment equity is ongoing and works to identify and eliminate employment barriers that may exist in procedures and policies. An employment equity program attempts to achieve:
– A workforce that reflects the diversity of the available labour force
– Employment systems, policies and practices that support the recruitment, retention and promotion of designated group members
– Employment systems that ensure all employees have an equitable opportunity to develop their abilities, realize their expectations and make the best contribution possible to the workplace

2. Who should participate?

The census should be completed by all employees but this does not include adjuncts (paid or unpaid), clinical faculty (unpaid), postdocs, students (undergraduate and graduate).

3. Why should I participate?

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

4. I require help to fill out the survey, who should I contact?

If you require assistance please contact the Equity and Inclusion Office at equity@equity.ubc.ca or (604)822-6353.

5. Could I be disadvantaged in any way by providing this information?

No. The information you provide on the survey is stored in a strictly confidential Employment Equity database. Information is presented in summary form in the annual Employment Equity Report and is used to develop initiatives to remove barriers to employment for the designated groups.

6. I am the only person in my department who is from a designated group, won’t I be easily identified?

No. The applicable legislation prohibits disclosure of information where any category includes three or fewer people.

7. Can I self-identify as being a member of more than one designated 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.

It is possible for a person of mixed ancestry, both Aboriginal and visible minority, to self-identify as both a member of a visible minority and an Aboriginal person.

The definition of “members of visible minorities” in section 3 of the Act, refers to “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples … ” This, however, should not be taken to mean that a person of mixed heritage could not self-identify in both groups, Aboriginal and visible minority.

Aboriginal persons who do not have a visible minority heritage should not identify as a “member of a visible minority”. Such individuals should self-identify only as “Aboriginal persons”.

8. If I recently completed the UBC Employment Equity Survey, do I need to do it again?

Yes, all UBC faculty and staff are being asked to complete a new survey. This year we are conducting a new census of all employees, including those who have previously completed a survey. UBC participates in the Federal Contractors Program (FCP) and it expects its participants to conduct a re-census occasionally, and the last time UBC conducted a census was in 2008.

9. How will I benefit from this census?

UBC’s employment equity program promotes full opportunity for all faculty and staff. Thus, by completing your survey, you help UBC expand job opportunities for all employees and ensure that UBC 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.

10. Does asking the employment equity census questions violate the human rights code?

No. Because the questions are a necessary part of UBC’s employment equity program, the University has received an exemption from the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal that allows collection of this information.

11. Can I change the information I provide on the census at a later date?

Yes. At any time in the future, you can fill in the online survey or submit a paper survey to the Equity and Inclusion Office and change the information you provide today.

12. What do you mean by the term “minority”?

The Employment Equity Act requires UBC to ask about people who self-identify as a “visible minority”. The Canadian census, to which employment equity data is compared, uses similar language. Thus, in order to compare UBC data with national data, we are required to use this term. However, we acknowledge that this term may be offensive to some and may also not reflect the reality of the numerical concept of “minority” at the local level, especially in large urban centres, where people of colour may in fact be in the statistical majority. This term is not intended to connote any sort of values statement about the worth or merits of any one group over another.

13. What do you mean by “visible minorities”? Why are you using this phrase?

In the federal Employment Equity Act, visible minorities are defined as “persons, other than aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour”.

At UBC, we recognize that “race” is a socially constructed concept that (along with classification of people by distinct skin colour) has been used to justify the hierarchical ranking of peoples and to support racist ideologies and practices and consequences. Recognition of persons as “persons of colour” or “visible minorities” is intended, in the employment equity context, to recognize and directly address the reality that belonging to a “visible minority” or being a “person of colour” still has social implications in employment. As stated in the federal Employment Equity Guideline 4: Collection of Workforce Data, the “rationale for including ‘visible minorities’ in the law is rather straightforward: people who are visibly in a minority because of their skin colour or identifiable “racial” background may face various types of employment barriers. This does not mean that anyone believes “race” is a valid scientific category. (As some have pointed out, there is only one race, the human race.).

Rather, it means that we recognize that belonging to a visible minority still has social implications, and that the creation of a truly integrated society must start with the efforts to identify and address these consequences in a direct and systematic manner.”

At UBC, we wanted our concept of visible minorities to reflect the reality of racism and its impact. In human rights contexts, the overwhelming majority of people who experience racism are people whose skin colour is perceived as “non-white”. (Aboriginal people are not considered part of this group, because they are identified as a separate designated group for the purposes of equity programs.) At UBC, we did not want to define this group in a way that positioned “whiteness” or Caucasian as the “norm”, “invisible” or “standard” and thus positioned “visible minorities” as “other(s)”, visible because they differ from the “standard”. Hence we defined visible minorities as “persons of colour” rather than as “non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour”. However, we did want to acknowledge that those who appear to be persons of colour, as distinguished by their physical appearance and recognized as a separate factor from their ethnicity, language, place of origin or culture, may be discriminated against in employment.

Of course, the term “visible minority” or “person of colour” does not identify a uniform group and, as such, is problematic. We are therefore asking a supplementary question, using the Canadian census language to have a basis for national comparison, about how one further self-identifies to be able to identify distinctions within the broader concept of “visible minorities”.

14. If I am of mixed racial heritage, should I identify myself as a member of a visible minority?

People whose racial heritage is mixed, and who consider themselves to be persons of colour, should identify as members of a visible minority.

15. If I was born in Canada, can I still identify as a member of a visible minority group?

Yes, for purposes of employment equity, if you are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour, you should indicate that you belong to a visible minority group (even if you have never experienced discrimination because of the colour of your skin, were born in Canada or are a Canadian citizen).

16. Should I identify myself as a person with a disability if my condition has been accommodated at UBC?

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

17. Should I identify myself as a person with a disability if I have a condition – such as diabetes or epilepsy – but I control my condition with medication?


18. Should I identify myself as a person with a disability if, for example, I wear glasses?

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.

19. What is a sexual minority?

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

20. What is gender identity?

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.

21. Why are you asking about sexual minorities and gender identity if it’s not required by law to do so?

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