When bank presidents, lawyers and politicians sit down for lunch today at the Fairmont Royal York hotel, it won’t be the typical Canadian Club crowd.
That’s because the sea of 600 faces attending will represent the ethnic makeup of Toronto, as business and community leaders throw their support behind DiverseCity — an initiative to ensure boardrooms actually reflect the region’s population, of which nearly 40 per cent are members of visible minorities.
“The tickets are just flying out the door,” said Noella Milne, a commercial real estate lawyer and past president of the Canadian Club. “There is such a buzz around this.”
More than 100 companies, non-profit groups and community organizations are signing on to DiverseCity, a joint effort between the Toronto City Summit Alliance and the Maytree Foundation. Its goal is to have 500 people from underrepresented ethnic and racial minorities appointed to agencies, boards and commissions by 2010.
Milne, an Indian woman who came to Canada at 17, believes in this initiative.
“I really feel that it’s important, as an immigrant, to make some changes,” said Milne.
“It is still very white, still very male — no matter what people say.”
The Bay Street lawyer sits on six boards, from the Canadian Club to George Brown College, quietly trying to promote change.
Milne was recently named to the governing board of the Ontario Science Centre where one of her main priorities is to ensure children who ordinarily could not afford the admission fee can visit and perhaps be inspired.
David Pecaut, chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, says by tapping into diversity from boardrooms to political office, creative thinking emerges.
“You get away from group-think — from people all coming to the table with the same ideas, the same vision, having gone to the same places in their lives,” he said. “You get a richer outcome.”
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