Sunshine List so white: Minorities almost invisible among Ontario's best-paid public servants

Minorities are almost invisible among Ontario's best-paid public servants as research done by CBC Toronto shows a lack of racial and gender diversity among the annual Sunshine List's top earners.

Research by CBC News reveals lack of racial, gender diversity among top executives on Sunshine List

Analysis by CBC Toronto shows the top 10 highest-paid public-sector employees of 2017 were all visibly white and predominately male. (LinkedIn)

Call it the Sunshine List So White and Male. 

According to research done by CBC News, minorities are almost invisible among Ontario's best-paid public servants, showing a lack of racial and gender diversity among the annual Sunshine List's top earners. 

The top 25 highest-paid public-sector employees of 2017 are all visibly white and only four women round out the list. 

Of the highest paid people, Jill Pepall is the only woman to crack the top 10. She was the executive vice-president and chief investment officer of the Ontario Public Service Pension Board and earned $721,224.22 last year.

The other three women in the top 25 include: 

  • Maureen Jensen, chair and CEO of the Ontario Securities Commission: $708,963.41.
  • Catherine Zahn, president and CEO of the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health: $673,541.20
  • Michelle Diemanuele, president and CEO of Trillium Health Partners: $660,450.07

Meanwhile, ranked 33rd on the list, Altaf Stationwala, president and CEO of Mackenzie Health, was the first visible minority person among the highest earners with a salary of $540,715.04. 

"When we look at public and private corporations we don't see [diversity] reflected in the actual numbers," said Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism. 

Coteau is responsible for the province's three-year anti-racism strategy, which was unveiled in March 2017, to combat systemic racism in education, justice and child welfare. 

The number of people from visible minority groups in Ontario is expected to grow in the next decade and the province's public service needs to reflect this diversity, explains Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism. (CBC)

Visible minority groups make up 29.3 per cent of Ontario's population, data from Canada's 2016 census shows. This number is expected to grow "drastically" in the next 15 years, says Coteau, and the province's public servants need to reflect this diversity. 

"We need to make sure that we're maximizing that potential in Ontario and looking for ways to ensure that we utilize the talent pool that's here by combating systemic racism and looking for ways to open up doors and remove barriers," he told CBC Toronto.        

"Within the government of Ontario, I know that the secretary of cabinets has been looking at ways to recruit people into senior positions that traditionally, in the past, did not get into Ontario public service."

But Treasury Board President Eleanor McMahon highlights that the provincial government doesn't possess the power to enforce diversity throughout the public sector, which includes municipalities, school boards, hospitals, universities, colleges, and many charities. 

"The hiring of people from Ontario's public sectors is outside our purview and those are generally speaking very technical jobs, of which there is a smaller pool of labour," said McMahon. 

Coteau adds, however, that having more visible minorities within government will eventually spread to the public sector. 

"If you want to start advocating for change, you got to start in government first to ensure there you're actually modelling what the world should look like," he said. 

From there, he hopes more young leaders will be inspired to train or seek education that will lead them into these public service roles. 

"I think the Ontario public service is going through a transformation where it's recognizing that it needs to, for example, bring people in early who they identify as potential leaders."

But the lack of diversity among the province's best-paid public servants isn't a quick fix, notes McMahon, because of low turnover rates within these top positions. 

"It's important to remember again that many of the people that are there now are going to be there for the foreseeable future and we can't do much about those folks that are there," she said. 

This is why diverse talent needs to be fostered early in order to give these individuals opportunities to climb the ladder of public service, explained Couteau. 

"It's more about encouraging and working with potential leaders and getting them into senior positions where they can be seen as mentors and can attract potential candidates," he said.    


  • A previous version of this story stated that Jill Pepall held the position of chief executive officer at the Ontario Public Service Pension Board. In fact, she was its chief investment officer.
    Mar 30, 2018 7:17 PM ET