Barriers and Enablers for Racialized Women
in Climate Action Leadership
Funded by the Toronto Workforce Funder Collaborative, this research seeks to identify the barriers and enablers that hinder and support the entry and advancement of mid-career racialized women, non-binary, and trans-femme individuals in climate action leadership careers across Canada.
Intended outcomes for this project include a story repository that showcases policies and practices that sustain these individuals in their work and offers recommendations from a systems-change perspective, with the goal of enabling deeper support and opportunities for racialized women, non-binary, and trans-femme individuals in climate action leadership roles.
About the Project
While progress has been made in integrating equity and inclusion into climate action and sustainability efforts, the field of sustainability practitioners in Canada remains predominantly homogeneous, with a majority of professionals being white and middle-class. This lack of diversity hinders the comprehensive and inclusive approach needed to address the complexities of climate change. ¹
Entry and advancement barriers experienced by racialized workers in their sustainability careers include:
- A lack of inclusive networking spaces
- A lack of equitable recruitment practices
- Insufficient employer readiness for increased staff diversity
- The implicit demographic bias within the sustainability sector
- Uncompensated labour expectations to lead, guide or support equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives within their organization
- A lack of mental health support for racialized people to navigate the “occasional and endemic toxicity” they experience from their colleagues ²
Addressing these gaps is the work of the dominant sustainability sector.
It requires centering the holistic wellbeing of racialized workers through specific mental health supports, examining recruitment processes and doing deep personal and organizational reckoning on whether an organization is ready for increased diversity.
It also requires listening to racialized workers about their needs, offering useful training opportunities and creating space for different ways of knowing and expertise that differ from dominant “Western and North American perspectives on climate science.” ³
¹ UNFCCC, 2022, Diversity Institute and FSC, 2022, Diversity in Sustainability, 2021
² Vancouver Economic Commission, 2023, Diversity in Sustainability, 2021
³ Vancouver Economic Commission, 2023
To build on existing research, we hope to highlight the climate action work women of colour, non-binary, and trans-femme individuals are doing in Canada and the policies, practices and programs that support and enable their leadership.
Outcomes from this project are emergent and will develop in conjunction with research participants. Intended outcomes include:
A detailed summary of existing barriers hindering the career progression of racialized women, non-binary, and trans-femme individuals in the climate action sector, emphasizing mid-career experiences (ages 30-49).
A repository of stories that showcases the impactful work of women of color, non-binary, and trans-femme individuals in the Canadian sustainability landscape, emphasizing policies, practices, and programs that contribute to and sustain their leadership.
Actionable recommendations from a systems-change perspective, focusing on both individual and organizational levels, to enhance support structures and opportunities for mid-career racialized women, non-binary, and trans-femme individuals in climate action leadership careers.
This project is resourced by the following team.