Empowering Workplaces Combat Emotional Tax for People of Colour in Canada

People of colour in Canada make up over 21% of the population and almost 22% of the workforce. Canadian companies that want to succeed must become better at attracting and developing this growing workforce population. Most importantly, they must learn to retain people of colour—a tall order since one study found that Canada has the fourth-worst employee attrition in the world at an average 16%.

In our study of over 700 Canadian women and men of colour, we found a worrisome story of Emotional Tax and consequent attrition. Emotional Tax—which we first described in 2016—is the combination of feeling different from peers at work because of gender, race, and/or ethnicity, being on guard to experiences of bias, and the associated effects on health, well-being, and ability to thrive at work. We focus in this report on the key component of Emotional Tax: being “on guard”—anticipating and consciously preparing for potential bias or discrimination.

In Canada, we found that Black, East Asian, and South Asian professionals who are highly on guard have a dangerously high intent to quit, ranging from 50% to 69%. But we also found a way that Canadian employers can start to counter this alarming number: creating empowering work environments for their employees.

Key Findings

Being “on guard” is a shared experience.

  • 33% to 50% of Black, East Asian, and South Asian professionals report being highly on guard to protect against bias. 
  • In in-depth interviews, 77% of women and men of colour shared harrowing stories of exclusion and being on guard. In many cases, these stories did not come to light until well into the interview—indicating the importance of going beneath the surface to better understand the experiences of people of colour.
  • Even when they are on guard, Canadian people of colour have a strong drive to contribute and succeed.

Read the full article and download the report from Catalyst here.


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