Lungile Tinarwo had high hopes of establishing his own law firm and prospering it when he first moved to Edmonton.
“Everybody talks about… there’s an abundance of work, there’s this, there’s that. But I’ve never felt more alone and marginalized than since I started my practice here,” Tinarwo said.
Ten years after leaving Toronto, and as the province continues to target skilled workers in Ontario and the Maritimes with its Alberta is Calling campaigns, she has regrets.
Work in Edmonton for women of color is a double-edged sword, experts say. The city is attractive for its affordability and opportunities, but social exclusion, unfair wages, layoffs and unequal treatment are driving some out.
He latest data from Statistics Canada shows that the median after-tax income for Edmonton men was $47,200 in 2020, compared to $36,400 for women. For black women in Edmonton that median is even lower, at $34,800.
Bukola Salami, a professor at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, said the workforce is segregated by gender and race.
“There are racialized hierarchies in the workforce,” Salami said, adding that the discrepancies are also having an impact on children. Black children and Filipino children are the only children who do not exceed the educational level of their parents, Salami said.
“One of the reasons is because when you have parents who are highly educated and they’re not doing very well in their profession, then when you’re a kid looking at your parents, you’re like, ‘Well, you’ve got the education, you’ I’m not doing very well. So why do I have to get the education?’ So it has an influence that crosses generations,” Salami said.
Heather Campbell, a Calgary-based energy professional, receives an annual salary survey from her regulatory body, the Alberta Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGA), which reveals the pay gap between men and women, but does not include the difference based on race. data.
“I know in my heart, in my head, that there is an additional pay gap as a black woman,” Campbell said. “But I don’t have data that really validates it.
“That’s really, I would say, a symptom of our leadership and our culture in Alberta.”
“There’s this really obnoxious theory about merit. You know, as a black woman, I couldn’t receive any position or accomplish anything based on merit. Clearly there has to be some sort of accommodation that needs to be made, or they’re hiring me to fill some kind of fee or something,” Campbell said. “Um, I have more titles than the former prime minister, and more titles than the current one as well. But that’s another story.”
Improvement of the field of law
While Edmonton’s black population increased to 5.7 percent in 2020 from 4.4 percent in 2015, the lack of diversity compared to cities like Toronto is difficult to navigate professionally and socially, Edmonton attorney Crystal Lawrence said.
The situation in Edmonton is slowly improving, Lawrence said.
“You’re going to be able to find a lawyer here, for example, who could also go with you to a party in the Caribbean,” Lawrence said. “I think that culture is changing a little faster in Edmonton than it is in Calgary.”
It’s also helpful that younger judges, in their 50s, are being appointed these days, Lawrence added.
“That means they themselves probably would have been exposed to more diversity when they were in law school or even when they weren’t in law school, but at least when they were practicing attorneys,” Lawrence said.
UK-based film producer Jimi Okubanjo, a former C-suite executive of multinational corporations, left her high-paying job to create the film. Rise bird of fireabout women of color overcoming trauma in the workplace and finding joy.
“It was a consistent run of verbal abuse, physical threats, sexual harassment, and me just internalizing and normalizing it,” Okubanjo says of his time in the corporate world. “And when I left, not a single member of my peer group came up to find out what was going on.”
Some of the women interviewed for the film said they had a fantastic income.
“And they were still being treated so badly,” Okubanjo said. “To the point where one of them was contemplating taking his own life.”
Fired ‘without cause’
In a lawsuit, Dawn Carter, former executive director of the Edmonton Pride Center, claimed that throughout her tenure at the center, she was “bullied, harassed and unfairly criticized” by the board.
On February 17, 2022, the day after sending an email to the board outlining “perceived workplace bias against black women,” Carter was fired without cause, according to her lawsuit statement filed in January at the Alberta King’s Bench Court.
In a defense statement filed July 8, the Pride Center denies that Carter was intimidated, harassed or unfairly criticized by his board.
“The Pride Center made this decision to terminate before the Complainant raised any concerns about perceived bias, which the Pride Center maintains are unfounded, and the Pride Center specifically states that the termination was unrelated to the concerns raised by the Pride Center. Plaintiff,” he says.
The center declined an interview request, but in an emailed statement said it is “committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for all people, regardless of their attractions, identities and expressions.”
Edmonton workplaces do not accommodate women of color, especially single mothers, Tinarwo said.
Cultural differences, such as spending time in church on Sundays, when many lawyers attend events like golf tournaments, have resulted in missed opportunities to meet other lawyers or judges who could open doors for her or connect her with high-net-worth clients, she said. Tinarwo. .
For the sake of his daughter, Tinarwo is not giving up on Edmonton. Instead, she’s closing her business here.
In September, she will be working for another law firm, hoping to remove some of the barriers she has faced working alone, including the lack of access to finance to fund her firm.
Kim-Ann Wilson, president of marketing agency SASS, said stories of women of color being undermined in the workplace are the norm.
“That feeling of being overwhelmed and having that shared experience of being qualified, having the experience, having the skill set, the knowledge, the know-how, and still constantly being ignored,” said Wilson, who decided to organize a conference for women in Edmonton in August, to help them overcome the challenges.
“I’ve seen so many women going through the same struggles. And it wasn’t enough just to make an Instagram video about it,” Wilson said.
Plans against black racism
Edmonton should look to cities like Toronto and Halifax for best practices in addressing racial discrimination, Salami said.
He Plan against black racism of the city of Toronto it has been in action since 2018.
Those struggling could contact community organizations, such as the Africa Center in Edmonton, or the Alberta Network of Black Therapists, Salami added.
Daria Nordell, policy and communications specialist for the city of Edmonton, said the city has committed to developing a Black Racism Action Plan by 2022, “to address and acknowledge individuals’ and communities’ unique local experiences of racism.” Negroes in Edmonton.”
He ultimate plan it will be released “shortly,” Nordell said.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians, from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community, check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.