“Cities rarely shrink to greatness. They get better by growing and to grow they must welcome migrants.” – Ambassador William Lacy Swing, International Organization for Migration
The Third International Cities of Migration Conference was an exciting prelude to Metropolis 2016, Canada’s most heavily attended annual conference on immigration and settlement. Cities of Migration showcased bright ideas and new ways of thinking about immigrant integration not just in Canada, but throughout the world. This year’s theme focused on the role of diversity in driving socioeconomic prosperity, an important ideal in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world.
As the day went on, we learned that diversity means much more than the movement of migrants; here, diversity represents a paradigm shift in how we approach social and economic progress. Diversity includes not just ethnic and gender inclusion, but considerations for new ways of thinking about social innovation.
There was perhaps no better way to kick start the day than with John Tory, Mayor of the world’s most multicultural city. The recently elected Mayor of Toronto was quick to remind the jam-packed Westin Harbour Castle audience of the city’s prosperity as one of the global north’s major centres of migration. In Toronto’s case, diversity has brought more trade, more talent and more innovation that have made the city a global hub for culture and economic growth.
The next 90 minutes featured an opening keynote on diversity and social innovation in the new economy, as well as a plenary panel on defining what constitutes a welcoming city. The global panel featured participants from Vancouver, Toronto, New York and Kreis Duren (Germany).
The morning session quickly moved to the topic of talent and workforce diversity, including the impact of diversity on innovation. The speakers, which represented organizations including Siemens Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Agenda 360 and KPMG, used an evidence-based approach to highlight the return on investment of diversity in the workplace. More and more, researchers are learning that diversity in teams and in the boardroom leads to greater financial performance and more innovative ideas.
ICTC has certainly documented this phenomenon as it has expanded its diversity and inclusion research over the past five years to focus more on women, youth, internationally educated professionals (IEPs), Indigenous people and persons with disabilities. While many of these groups – especially women, youth and Indigenous people – remain under-represented in the digital economy, their workforce prospects improve considerably when they choose a high-demand career in information technology. For example, the unemployment rate of women in ICT professions is just 3.2%, a fraction of their national average. The unemployment rate for immigrants is only 3.3%, compared with their national average of 7.5%.
The impact of gender and cultural shifts on the boardroom – dubbed return on diversity by many in the research community – was a main discussion point in the final plenary panel of the morning. Here, representatives from London, New York and Toronto talked about the need for promoting diversity and inclusion at all levels of society, including government.
The afternoon session featured a keynote address on practical solutions to manage mobility, followed by concurrent workshops on social innovation and competition for talent.
The Issues Panel closed the day with a roundtable discussion on welcoming refugees, a timely topic amid the waves of Syrian refugees making their way to other Middle Eastern states, Europe and North America. The conversation focused on how welcoming refugees has become a key socioeconomic initiative for cities of migration looking to build strong communities and a steady pipeline of diverse talent.
While the impact of diversity on social and economic prosperity has been long established, the Cities of Migration event offered new ways of thinking about social innovation. The timing of the event was particularly notable given the growing politicization of the Syrian refugee crisis in many parts of the world.
To learn more about ICTC’s diversity and inclusion research, be sure to check out the recently released the ICTC National Digital Talent Strategy, in partnership with Microsoft Canada.