Survey for sexual orientation & gender identity

Equity census for Queen’s employees aims to increase awareness and support for equity-seeking groups

Equity advisor Heidi Penning holds the I Count Equity Census, which aims to promote awareness of the LGBT community at Queen’s.
Equity advisor Heidi Penning holds the I Count Equity Census, which aims to promote awareness of the LGBT community at Queen’s.

All Queen’s employees are now able to identify their sexual preference and gender identity on an equity census.

The I Count Equity Census is distributed four times yearly to new employees. It was sent out via email on Oct. 5. The census features 12 voluntary questions regarding one’s self-designation within a group.

Results of the census are used to identify non-visible minority groups to ensure equitable treatment, said Equity Advisor Heidi Penning.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community was added to the survey this year as it’s a non-visible equity-seeking group.

Under the Federal Contract Program — a program that requires the University to maintain employment equity for people self-identifying as a woman, visible minority, Aboriginal person or as a person with a disability — people from these groups must be represented at the University proportional to the general workforce.

Penning said 4,400 employees can opt to complete the voluntary survey. It doesn’t pertain to students working for the University.

Penning said it’s important for everyone, not just people who identify with the five groups, to complete the census to get correct numbers.

“We’ll keep [the census] open as long as it needs to be, until we have a data set that we can confidently begin to analyze and describe,” Penning said.

The census initiative began in fall 2009, created jointly by the Equity Office and the Human Resources Office.

As of March 2012, the University will add the LGBT-option questions to the Student Applicant Census, distributed annually to incoming first year students. Penning said in previous years the census return rate was low.

“We get anywhere between 40 to 50 per cent of students returning it,” Penning said, adding the survey was completely voluntary.

AMS Social Issues Commissioner T.K. Pritchard said the student census would identify groups that weren’t attending the University, and raise questions as to why.

“It will help identify barriers and as long as that’s clearly communicated to students, I don’t foresee any issues with it,” Pritchard, ArtSci ’12, said. “One of the biggest issues with censuses is that sometimes people may think they are mandatory, and not everyone wants to identify.”

Pritchard said the census made it clear that answers were voluntary. He said it would be useful to conduct a similar survey with upper-year students.

“It would be useful to know who we are retaining in terms of students. Is our school uncomfortable or unsafe for certain groups of students?” he said.

Currently the AMS doesn’t ask questions regarding a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We don’t depend on gender for hiring, there’s no real reason for knowing it,” Pritchard said. “It would be interesting for the AMS to look at employment. Are we representative of the workforce? Are we representative of students as a whole.”

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