In November 2020, Ontario’s engineering regulator Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) launched an Anti-Racism and Anti-Discrimination Working Group (AREWG) tasked with “scoping vulnerabilities to systemic racism and discrimination within the engineering profession and range of activities overseen by PEO, as well as proposing best-practice methodologies for identifying, studying and addressing any vulnerabilities that exist.” (Engineering Dimensions March/April 2021).
As part of this initiative, the Working Group commissioned a report, released on July 12, 2021, entitled Anti-Racism and Anti-Discrimination: A Bridge to PEO’s More Successful Future. Conducted by independent consultants and experts Particia DeGuire and Shashu Clacken, the purpose of the report is to provide a thorough assessment of whether PEO has risks in relation to racism and discrimination, using the Ontario Human Rights Commission “Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination,” and the current state of anti-racism initiatives by the Law Society of Ontario as a benchmark.
“OSPE commends PEO on commissioning this report,” said Mark Frayne, P.Eng., President & Chair of OSPE. “We support efforts being undertaken at PEO to transform policies and practices to ensure our profession continues to work towards becoming more diverse and inclusive. Clearly identifying and understanding challenges, vulnerabilities, and ineffective practices is necessary to create real and lasting change.”
The report reveals significant vulnerabilities at PEO in respect to racism and discrimination, identified throughout various areas, including:
- Stakeholder engagement including the public
- Title, employment impact, and conduct in the profession
- Race-based data
- Chapters and elections
- Discipline and rewards
- Adequacy of efforts
- Role of council
The information shared in this report was consistent with the findings presented in the External Regulatory Performance Review, the recommendations made by the Ontario Humans Rights Commissioner, and calls by OSPE for regulatory reform at PEO. The focus at PEO on non-regulatory activities in the past, has hindered its ability to effectively address important issues such as these. This is an opportunity to make change and that change needs to come from the top.
We are reminded over and over, by numerous events in the news and in our daily lives, that even in the 21st century, our world and our profession, has much work to do in terms of building a truly equitable, diverse and inclusive society. The commissioning of this report is indeed a step in the right direction, but also another indicator of how pressing the need for action truly is, and confirms what engineers already know—that real change regarding D&I needs to come in the way of systemic reform. Though the moral case for focusing greater efforts on diversity and inclusion (D&I) should be self evident, the business case is one that OSPE has advocated for extensively as well; that is, we know that attracting and retaining diverse talent leads to greater innovation and better business outcomes in the long run.
“While the findings of this new report are deeply concerning, they do not come as a surprise,” said Sandro Perruzza, CEO of OSPE. “Since the inception of OSPE’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force in 2018, formerly our Women in Engineering Committee in place since the year 2000, OSPE has always made concentrated efforts to understand the experiences of women and equity-seeking groups within the engineering profession. We have the data—we know barriers and discrimination are real. People are leaving the profession of engineering as a result.”
That is why this topic is so important to so many—more than 1,500 people and 50 of Canada’s top employers attend our Diversity & Inclusion conference every year to bring experts together to discuss and attempt to solve these issues. We are committed to acting as a convener of knowledge-sharing to generate awareness and be a catalyst for change, and we hope PEO will join this effort.”
OSPE’s Diversity & Inclusion Task Force has reviewed the report and believes that in order to remove barriers to diversity and inclusion and dismantle racism, PEO must:
- Implement all recommendations presented by DeGuire and Claken in a prompt manner, making this part of the organization’s strategic priorities, and overall governance changes.
- Work and support OSPE’s diversity & inclusion initiatives to avoid duplication of efforts and facilitate knowledge sharing. OSPE is a leader in this area and can provide support to PEO regarding functions that are outside of its regulatory jurisdiction.
- Develop a practice standard on the Equitable and Inclusive practice of engineering, so that PEO has the jurisdiction to hold professional engineers accountable for racism and discriminatory conduct.
- Include Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training as an acceptable category under the new Continuous Professional Development Program that PEO will be implementing.
- Accelerate the implementation of the action plan to halt all non-regulatory activities to ensure that sufficient resources are funnelled to regulatory activities, including addressing racism and discrimination.
At OSPE, we believe that change is necessary. While we have taken significant actions to advance diversity and inclusion, we too will use the recommendations in this report to determine how we can improve. We look forward to being part of the change and renewal of the engineering profession in Ontario.
OSPE’s Diversity & Inclusion Work
At OSPE, we approach all of our diversity and inclusion work through a lens of intersectionality. This means that while we know the importance of focusing on identity markers such as gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and ability, amongst others, we also consider how these intersect to create further barriers for some individuals over others.
OSPE offers programs, activities, and campaigns that help to combat anti-racism and other forms of discrimination. Some examples on how we are leading in this space include:
- OSPE has publicly committed to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is part of our values and of our strategic priorities as an organization. We condemn discrimination of any kind and seek to represent the interests of all members of the engineering community irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, religion, amongst other diversity dimensions
- Every year OSPE hosts several events to provide a platform for members of the engineering community to share their experiences and generate awareness both of barriers and opportunities. We also present stakeholders with the platform to share best practices, challenges, and renew their commitment to change. These events create spaces for members of underrepresented groups to be heard and opportunities for organizations to learn and implement new policies and procedures.
- OSPE hosted a Black History Month Panel titled Conceptualizing Black Experiences in Engineering to create a safe space for Black members of the engineering community to share their experience and to provide a call to action for collective improvement of workplace cultures. We communicated the learnings from this panel on our OSPE Blog to ensure that all members have access to this information and are educated about the Black experience in engineering.
- OSPE seeks to generate awareness of issues facing underrepresented groups in engineering and obtain support for change. In 2020, OSPE launched a diversity and inclusion campaign titled Engineering for Change. The campaign is a call to action for members of the engineering community to state their claim that we can no longer sustain a culture of discrimination and exclusion within the profession. Unfortunately, we did not receive any public support from the PEO on this campaign.
- OSPE continuously engages members and stakeholders in important discussions about diversity and inclusion. Our newly launched podcast Engineering the Future features various episodes focused on anti discrimination and anti-racism.
- A recent episode with Ishwar Puri, P.Eng., Dean of McMaster Engineering, and fourth year chemical engineering student and President of the National Society of Black Engineers at McMaster University Feyisayo Enuiyin to discuss the importance of making engineering more inclusive. OSPE supports McMaster’s efforts to combat Anti-Black racisms with initiatives such as Indigenous and Black Engineering and Technology IBET Ph.D. Fellowship.
- OSPE holds various partnerships with organizations focused on advancing EDI. These include: SWE Toronto, SWE Ottawa, Neil Squire Society, Specialisterne, WiRE, WinSETT, Hispanotech, Pros&Babes, and most recently reached out to organizations focused on Black inclusion such as to various National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapters and initiated a partnership discussion with NSBE headquarters.
- OSPE provides regular diversity and inclusion focused training to its staff and Board members to ensure compliance with Ontario’s Human Rights Code. Most recently, OSPE staff completed Respect in the Workplace Training, which touched significantly on the Black Lives Matter movement, the impact of microaggressions, and the legal ramifications of harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
- OSPE conducts consistent outreach and consultation with industry partners to discuss current approaches to D&I and share learnings acquired through our independent research and our diversity and inclusion conferences.
- OSPE’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force works diligently to ensure that:
- Unsung members of the engineering community are recognized for their work and accomplishments, while paying specific attention to those that are members of equity seeking groups
- Members of equity seeking groups have the tools to succeed
- The engineering community understands the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion for the overall progression of the profession
- As a testament of its leadership in diversity and inclusion, OSPE has received and continues to receive government funding for a number of programs and projects, which enable us to break barriers and support equity seeking groups.
- OSPE currently delivers bridging programs to improve the labour market and licensing outcomes of international engineering graduates (IEGs).
- OSPE has recently received funding to facilitate the hiring of underrepresented target groups, namely, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, youth, racialized groups, including newcomers to Canada, and women who are interested in pursuing technology or engineering related careers. OSPE will utilize our intraprovincial reach to bridge the recruiting of target groups with employers in smaller communities such as those in Northern Ontario, as well as larger urban centres through scaling up of the pilot Virtual Employment Events (VE3s).
- OSPE also works diligently to provide recommendations to government on how to develop policies that will support D&I at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels. In the past few months, OSPE has been advocating for the implementation of social procurement policies that will benefit organizations led by members of equity seeking groups, including Black persons. In addition, we have been advocating for an inclusive economic recovery to ensure a more innovative, equitable, and inclusive post-pandemic engineering labour market.
- OSPE continues to build and improve its DiversifySTEM website. The purpose of the microlearning tool is to provide employers with practical tips on attracting and retaining women and members of other underrepresented groups in STEM careers. The modules are flexible, enjoyable, and action-oriented, with thought-provoking content that can be discussed and shared with others.