I live in Toronto. It is one of the world’s most multicultural and multiracial cities. In 2016, 51.5% of the residents of the city proper belonged to a visible minority group, compared to 49.1% in 2011, and 13.6% in 1981. Toronto also has established ethnic neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Corso Italia, Little Italy, Little India, Greektown, Koreatown, Little Jamaica, Little Portugal and Roncesvalles, which celebrate the city’s multiculturalism.
In North America, they often refer to major cities as a ‘melting pot’ of ethnic diversity. Think of New York City. But, Toronto is different. New Canadians do not need to seamlessly blend or morph into one stereotypical persona. You can remain true to who you are, what you are, you can be you, whatever that may entail. No melting required!
There are so many benefits to this scenario that it is hard to list them all. For me, it manifests in food. Yes, I love food. If you cannot find a suitable and enchanting restaurant in Toronto, then you are not looking, just open your eyes and raise your nose to sniff the sweet aromas of the food from these cultures. We recently found a Burmese restaurant that is beyond your imagination. Yummy.
In 2013, Toronto’s population overtook Chicago’s, taking its place as the 4th largest city in North America with a population of 2.79 million to Chicago’s 2.7 million. Toronto added 38,000 people in 2013, compared to just 11,000 in Chicago. Toronto’s growing population and economy is also leading to more people choosing to stay in the city rather than leave to surrounding areas.
For the past five years, the population growth in the Toronto metropolitan area has outpaced the national average, during which time most of the economy was hit hard by the economic downturn.
Over the next 20 years, Toronto is expected to continue its moderate growth, surpassing 3 million by 2026, and reaching nearly 3.2 million in 2036.
Toronto’s crown as most diverse city in the world is often taken for granted by those who live here, but it’s actually quite rare for this title to be given out in any official capacity. The majority of global urban diversity rankings pull together short lists of cities that are the most multicultural, but resist declaring a winner based on statistical shortcomings.
So, beyond food, why is this a good thing? How does cultural diversity affect work in Toronto?
Cultural diversity in the workplace occurs when a company hires employees from a variety of backgrounds, race, gender, age, or religion. A diverse culture in the workforce benefits companies in countless ways, contributing to an organization’s efficiency and creating a competitive advantage.
The key point to realize is that cultural diversity is not just what you ‘see’, it is much more. It is not just about race. Diversity of culture is combined with the demography of people, and it is measured in many ways, metrics include demographic indicators such as: age, sex, education, language, music, arts, traditions, religion, employment, skill levels, martial status, sexual preferences, and more.
Here are 13 key benefits and challenges of cultural diversity in the workplace.
- Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation
- Local market knowledge and insight makes a business more competitive and profitable
- Cultural sensitivity, insight, and local knowledge means higher quality, targeted marketing
- Drawing from a culturally diverse talent pool allows an organization to attract and retain the best talent
- A diverse skills base allows an organization to offer a broader and more adaptable range of products and services
- Diverse teams are more productive and perform better
- Greater opportunity for personal and professional growth
- Colleagues from some cultures may be less likely to let their voices be heard
- Integration across multicultural teams can be difficult in the face of prejudice or negative cultural stereotypes
- Professional communication can be misinterpreted or difficult to understand across languages and cultures
- Navigating visa requirements, employment laws, and the cost of accommodating workplace requirements can be difficult
- Different understandings of professional etiquette
- Conflicting working styles across teams
Beyond the technical obvious measurements, there is a romantic ideal to this level of intense diversity. It is fun and powerful to be different when everyone else is different too. There is less stress to conform to some arbitrary standard or contrived persona of who you ought to be. You can just be yourself. It is not very confusing for most to wrap their minds around. Sure, we still have our problems, we have people who struggle, Toronto is not exempt nor perfect. But, statistically, this massive scale of diversity works very well. For a city of this size, and even considering the larger Greater Toronto Area, we have a very safe city.
Crime in Toronto has been relatively low in comparison to other major cities. A 2017 ranking of 60 cities by The Economist ranked Toronto as the fourth safest major city in the world, and the safest major city in North America.
For comparisons to various cities in North America, in 2012 for example, the homicide rate for the city of Toronto was 2.0 per 100,000 people, yet for Atlanta (19.0), Chicago (18.5), Boston (9.0), San Francisco (8.6), New York City (5.1), and San Jose (4.6) it was higher, while it was significantly lower in Vancouver. In 2007, Toronto’s robbery rate also ranked low, with 207.1 robberies per 100,000 people, compared to Detroit (675.1), Chicago (588.6), Los Angeles (348.5), Vancouver (266.2), New York City (265.9), Montreal (235.3), San Diego (158.8), and Portland (150.5).
It is natural for businesses to locate here. With the currency exchange advantage between Canada to USA, it is affordable here and the dollar provides a competitive edge. We have a highly educated workforce and with the many languages spoken here, it is easy to communicate to the world.
Cultural diversity is one of the key ingredients that make Toronto a truly world class city that is young, vibrant, and thriving. It is a city of, and for, success. Culture diversity is good for business. Cultural diversity flourishes in Toronto. Come visit our village and enjoy the food.
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.
He is a Senior Executive with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 13 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.
Mike – expectedly a brilliant piece, by all accounts.
Can you shed more lights on the second phrase of the statement: “A diverse culture in the workforce benefits companies in countless ways, contributing to an organization’s efficiency and creating a competitive advantage.” I don’t doubt the phrase at all – I am just interested in your workplace-specific experience. It will come in handy for me in my current assignment.
Hi Akin, Most of us reside within a limited ‘knowledge bubble’. We see the world thorough our own lens. Sometimes a person’s view is wide angle and for others it is very narrow like a telephoto lens. Cultural diversity brings a more diverse collections of viewpoints. For example, we were addressing a complicated microwave challenge whereby intense snowfall was negatively affecting the performance of an antenna. A new colleague, who recently arrived from UAE, came up with a solution that he saw in the Middle East to correct for a similar issue caused by the adverse effects of sandstorms on car headlights. We tried his solution and it worked perfectly. Now, we might never have found this perfect solution if he was not a part of the team. His experience was very different than ours and he could translate it to our application and environment. Genius. Does that help? Michael