Gender equality and diversity in a workforce can't happen without a change in culture among colleagues and simply mandating quotas is not going to create that — but it's a start, says one consultant.

Vancouver city hall is voting Tuesday on a motion that would require the city advisory committees to be made up of at least 50 per cent women. Tuesday is International Women's Day.

"When you have that critical mass, it allows for the culture change to happen," said Natasha Aruliah, a diversity and social justice consultant.

"When you only have one or two or a few of a group, the tokenism means it's really hard for people to put their voices forward and to represent the groups that they're supposed to be representing."

She says it's especially important for Vancouver organizations to hire a racially diverse workforce because of the city's population.

City of Vancouver Open Doors/city hall city of vancouver 2.jpg

Vancouver city hall is voting Tuesday morning on a motion that would require city advisory committees to be made up of at least 50 per cent women. (City of Vancouver)

"Vancouver is more than 50 per cent people of colour, more than 50 per cent were born outside of Canada and more than 50 per cent speak neither English or French as a first language," she said.

"It's fundamental that we represent our population."

Aruliah says representation for sexual orientation and gender identities can't be achieved by hiring a proportional number of people in those groups, compared to the general population.

"The number of people representing those groups may not be enough of a critical mass."

Culture change

But on top of hiring people from diverse backgrounds, managers need to think about workplace culture as well.

If the workplace remains a toxic environment, hiring more women or a more diverse workforce won't result in equality, said Aruliah.

Some companies become revolving doors for women because despite bosses hiring more women, they end up leaving just as quickly, she said.

"If the culture isn't changing internally in an organization, then [they] experiences things like micro aggressions, which are the constant day-to-day jibes that people experience because of their differences," she said.

"For example,  women constantly being viewed about and discussed about their clothing, how they look, their appearance, rather than the content of the work they do."

To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: Gender equality is about more than numbers, says consultant.