Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhaus

Advisor Role

Thesis Co-Supervisor

Second Advisor

Josephine Naidoo

Advisor Role

Thesis Co-Supervisor


Minority groups tend to face disproportionately higher rates of unemployment, underemployment and restricted job mobility than non-minority groups. In recognition of the inequalities borne by these groups in the labour force, Judge Rosalie Abella produced a report iterating the most “efficient, effective, and equitable means of promoting employment equity.” The federal Employment Act in 1986 was produced in response to the report. Four designated groups were identified: women, visible minorities, disabled persons and First Nations people. Due primarily to the weak enforcement mechanisms of the federal legislation, the impact of this Act has been insignificant. Ontario developed its own employment legislation in 1994 which has been short lived. One significant difference between the federal and provincial legislation was that the provincial version had more stringent enforcement mechanisms. A brief review of the Act is provided in the paper. There is statistical evidence to support the need for the employment equity legislation. The focus of this study is on barriers experienced in the workforce by women in two different ethnic groups, Anglo-Saxon and visible minority, and in two different occupational categories, professional and unskilled/semi-skilled. The study endeavours to probe the interplay of ethnicity, gender and class as they impact on women in the workforce. Thirty-six interviews were conducted in total. Qualitative design, more specifically, elements of the naturalistic inquiry paradigm were employed for the study. The author argues that this type of design is most suitable for studying the multiple realities of people. The author recognizes the complexities of defining visible minorities and the need to make more distinctions between and among the specific visible minority groups. However, the terms used were mainly to remain consistent with the Employment Equity categories of visible minorities. The broad categories in which visible minorities are defined is not a limitation of the thesis, but rather a limitation of the policy itself. Then study found that visible minority women, regardless of occupational categories, experienced similar barriers in the workforce. The barriers reported were more related to their culture and ethnicity than gender or class. Anglo-Saxon women also shared more common barriers with each other, irrespective of occupational categories. Furthermore, professional visible minority women encountered difficulty in securing employment at any level, whereas professional Anglo-Saxon women were more likely to encounter barriers to advancement. The economic disadvantage experienced by both groups of unskilled/semi-skilled women limited their choices in the workforce. Recommendations are made for implementing fair and equitable employment practices and policies for all women. Suggestions for working towards objectivity in recruiting, descriptions of jobs, screening, selecting and interviewing are made. Lastly, broadening the application of seniority rights to include part time, temporary and contract workers as well as more flexible seniority provisions would greatly improve the chances of all women in their eligibility for promotions.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season