There are many benefits for regularly collecting data using accepted data collection research methods. Some examples are:
- Good data can help identify and verify issues, theories and perceptions, such as perceptions of equal opportunity and treatment, institutional barriers to recruitment and hiring of older persons, factors encouraging and inhibiting student achievement, accessible services for persons with mental illness, changing cultural and linguistic needs of patients, diverse leadership in the corporate sector, racial profiling in law enforcement, and the role of socio-economic disadvantage in the rental housing market.
- Good data can help to proactively address issues, measure progress and capitalize on opportunities. Collecting data can help measure a general state of affairs, not limited to specific cases or events. When data is gathered, tracked and analyzed in a credible way over time, it becomes possible to measure progress and success (or lack of it). Budgets, policies, practices, processes, programming, services and interventions can then be evaluated, modified and improved. This helps organizations to capitalize on opportunities such as:
- justifying requests for more funding for human rights, equity and diversity initiatives
- promoting innovation and higher productivity
- developing better programs and ways of delivering services
- enhancing stakeholder perception
- fostering potential growth in terms of markets or the “bottom line.”
- Good data can gain trust, develop effective, respectful consultations, and secure the support of key decision-makers and stakeholders. Collecting, tracking and evaluating data on an ongoing basis can provide organizations with credible, compelling information when communicating with key decision-makers and stake-holders about support for sensitive policies, programs or initiatives.
- Good data can reduce exposure to possible legal action and human rights complaints. Collecting data on an ongoing basis, using accepted data collection methods, can help an organization show that it has met its duty to protect and uphold human rights. A failure to collect data does not, in and of itself, form the basis of an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. However, if an application alleging discrimination is made against an organization, not collecting data may factor into the decision of whether an organization has met its duty to make sure it is not in violation of the Code. Data collection and analysis have figured prominently in public interest remedies sought by the OHRC in recent years.
The Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation experience
In July 2009, the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) released a groundbreaking study, Sorry, It’s Rented: Measuring Discrimination in Toronto’s Rental Housing Market. CERA and over 20 volunteers conducted telephone-based housing discrimination “audits” of almost 1,000 apartments across Toronto. CERA found that 26% of Black single mothers, 23% of South Asian renters and 24% of people on social assistance experienced discrimination when asking about an apartment. For persons with a mental health disability, the discrimination rate jumped to 35%.
CERA says they now need to go further and look at different types of discrimination and different communities. For example, what kind of barriers do youth face when trying to rent an apartment? What effect does perceived sexual orientation have on rental opportunities? In CERA’s view, all of these questions – and more – could be tested effectively and affordably through telephone-based discrimination audits in communities across Ontario.
The TD Bank Financial Group experience
The Toronto-Dominion Bank and its subsidiaries are collectively known as TD Bank Financial Group (TD). As part of its corporate diversity strategy, one of TD’s key priorities is to be recognized by the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community as the bank of choice. TD views this community as an important part of its customer base. The International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce estimates that Canada includes two million LGBT consumers with spending power of $100 billion.
Since 2007, TD has been working with external research partners to conduct multiple research studies and collect data on the LGBT customer segment. Different research tools have been used, including focus groups, interviews and surveys.
Some research objectives include measuring the LGBT community’s awareness of major Canadian banks and the likelihood of LGBT customers doing business with these banks, examining perceptions of the service received and understanding banking habits and needs. TD will use this data to gain insights into how to tailor product and services to better meet the needs and preferences of LGBT consumers, and to aid in identifying meaningful community initiatives to support.
The DiverseCity experience
Just 13% of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) leaders are visible minorities, compared to 49.5% of the population studied in the region, finds a report released by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute on behalf of DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project (DiverseCity). DiverseCity is the latest project of the Maytree Foundation and the Toronto City Summit Alliance.
DiverseCity Counts: A Snapshot of Diversity in the Greater Toronto Area, released in May 2009, looked at 3,257 leaders in the GTA across the corporate, public, not-for-profit and education sectors. The report is the first to look across sectors and provide a benchmark of how the region’s visible minorities are reflected in its senior leadership roles. The boards of the City of Toronto’s public agencies scored highest with visible minorities reflecting 31% of their members. Since building in mechanisms to measure their performance in this area, these boards have seen a 40% improvement in just four years. Also of note, boards in all but the corporate sector had much higher levels of representation than the executive staff of their organizations.
“Now that we have a clearer picture of where we stand as a region, we’re in a much better position to do something about it,” says Dr. Wendy Cukier, founder of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, who co-authored the report with Dr. Margaret Yap. Previous research has shown a clear link between diversity in leadership and prosperity.
Diverse leadership improves organizational financial performance and stimulates innovation, among other well-documented benefits. “What’s interesting is that organizations that make a point of tracking and reporting on their results tend to have higher levels of diversity. What gets measured gets done,” adds Dr. Cukier.
 What the “bottom line” is may differ depending on the nature and mandate of the organization. For private-sector organizations, the bottom line may be profit and profitability; in the public-sector, it may be the efficient delivery of services for all members of society; in the non-profit sector, the bottom line may be achieving an organization’s mission and vision. See Dr. Jeffrey Gandz at para. 1.