By Marian Scott
Montreal — Is your workplace a miniature United Nations, with colleagues who trace their origins to many different parts of the globe? Or does everyone you work with come from a similar background?
The answer probably tells a lot about how open you are to people from different cultures, according to a new study by the Association for Canadian Studies.
The more diverse your workplace or school, the more accepting you will be of diversity in other areas of life, such as the friends you choose and the neighbourhood you live in, shows the four-country study that also included the U.S., Britain and France.
Nearly three-quarters of Canadians work or study in multicultural environments, and that is helping to make them among the world’s most tolerant people, said Jack Jedwab, the association’s executive director.
“Canadians are stacking up as the country that has the most diverse workplaces,” he said.
But the study also found that Quebec workplaces are among the least diverse in the country.
Jedwab said the findings run counter to a widespread theory that increasingly pluralistic societies are making people less trusting and causing a decline in community involvement.
Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam has argued that “people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ — that is, to pull in like a turtle.”
The survey suggests that is not the case, Jedwab said.
“In fact, the ethnically diverse workplace generally produces more openness to cultural differences,” he said.
Seventy-three per cent of Canadians describe their workplace or school as diverse, compared to 70 per cent of Americans, 68 per cent of Britons and 67 per cent of French respondents.
Sixty per cent of Quebecers work in a multicultural environment, the lowest proportion of any province.