Governance Indicator #2: Cultural Diversity in Leadership Positions

The synopsis:  Representation by women is up, representation by First Nations is down, and representation by visible minorities is relatively stable.  None of these groups are represented in proportion to their share of the population, with First Nations being the most under-represented in leadership.

Why is representation important?

Representation is one-half of the equation in “representational democracy”.  Representation by marginalized groups among top decision-makers is key to achieving equity.  It brings us closer to an ideal in which those who govern us make decisions in the best interests of all citizens, not just those who have traditionally had the most opportunity to speak and be heard. Beyond simply shedding light on the unique perspectives, challenges, and aptitudes of various groups, it provides opportunity to mobilize these perspectives, challenges and aptitudes into action.  As a result, we end up making better use of people’s talents, develop more effective supports, and ultimately, experience greater overall productivity and well-being within society.  As research by Wilkinson and Pickett has shown in The Spirit Level, greater equality makes us all better off – not just the marginalized among us.

There is also a business case for increasing the diversity: numerous studies show that diversity enhances innovation and increases connections among markets.

The Stats in Calgary:

For Sustainable Calgary’s State of our City, we examine representation in leadership positions by women, visible minorities, and aboriginal people in four sectors: non-profit, media, corporate and government.  Here are some of the results:

  • Representation is up for women, particularly in media.  Women represent 39% of all leadership positions, while accounting for 50% of the population (see table below)
  • Representation is down for Aboriginal persons.  Aboriginal persons represent 0.35% of all leadership positions, while accounting for 2.7% of the population in Calgary. This is the group that is represented the least well of the three by far, erring from proportional representation by a factor of nearly 8.
  • Representation is fairly stable for visible minorities.  Visible minorities represent 9% of all leadership positions, while making up 30.1% of the population.

Representation in Leadership Positions in Calgary 2013 (2011 Census; Sustainable Calgary, 2013)

# of positions
% Women
% Visible Minority
% Aboriginal
% General Population*
42% (up)
9% (down)
1.5% (up)
43% (up)
9.5% (up)
20% (up)
6% (up)
43% (up)
11% (down)
39% (up)
9% (down – stable)
0.35% (down)
* 2011 Census 
**Sustainable Calgary, 2013


While representation of women has been on an upward trend in Calgary, the outlook for this year’s municipal government is not optimistic, according to sources such as The Calgary Sun, , and this independent analysis from Calgary Politics.

According to the same analysis from Calgary Politics, representation of women on school boards in Calgary is closer to parity.  Considering that the teaching profession has such a high proportion of female teachers, this is nonetheless surprisingly low.

Calgary seems to be faring slightly better than other major cities such as Montreal, when it comes to women and minorities in comparable categories, and Toronto, when it comes to women in comparable categories.

With respect to the rest of the world, Canada comes 47th out of 142, according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in terms of number of women elected into parliament.  The top five are Rwanda, Andorra, Cuba, Sweden and Seychelles.

To learn more on representation and equity in Canada, check out these resources and events:

Thanks for tuning in, and look for more 2013 State of our City Governance indicators tomorrow!

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