What's with Self-Identification?

ETFO member activities are in full swing, and each time we register for an event, we are invited to self-identify.  If you've ever wondered why we do this in our ETFO local, how the self-identification survey is created, or how the data is used, this article is for you!


Why do we collect self-identification data?

This initiative of the ETFO Equity and Social Justice Committee focuses on measuring the inclusion and involvement of members belonging to equity-seeking groups.  The intent of collecting self-identification data is to develop indicators by which our progress in equity can be measured.  Members of equity-seeking groups have historically faced barriers that have limited their ability to participate in various aspects of society and have often denied them access to positions of power.  We want to eliminate barriers to participation in our ETFO local.


Why are some identities included on the survey and not others?

Our local survey attempts to mirror the ETFO Provincial self-identification process.  It is informed by many of the protected grounds of the Ontario Human Rights Code, and it focuses on equity-seeking groups.  "Equity-seeking groups" refers to communities of people that have historically experienced systemic discrimination, marginalization, or under-representation in various aspects of society, such as education, employment, housing, and political participation.  These obstacles may also limit participation in our union's activities, including participation in decision-making processes and holding positions of leadership.  By measuring participation of members belonging to equity-seeking groups, we are seeking to identify, remove, and circumvent obstacles to participation.


Wouldn't it be more "equitable" if all members could self-identify with all parts of their identity?

It's important to remember that this survey is not an ETFO census. If it were a census, it would certainly be essential to capture a much broader picture of the entire membership and its many intersectional identities.  This project, however, has a much more specific scope.  That is, to measure the involvement of members belonging to groups that have historically faced discrimination and marginalization in our society.

The term "equitable" is an important one.  It's helpful to remember that equitable doesn't mean the same.  Making something equitable is about achieving balanced outcomes, rather than ensuring identical treatment.  To do that, we recognize differing needs, we remove unnecessary obstacles, and we provide targeted resources in an attempt to reach a fair and balanced result.

Finally, the self-identification process is admittedly imperfect.  The terms individuals use, when they will choose to self-identify, and our understanding of how groups of people are affected by systemic barriers is fluid and ever-evolving.  Some steps that have been taken in recognition of this are including the option to self-identify with self-selected terms, the "prefer not to say" option, as well as the option to select "I do not identify as a member of an equity-seeking group."


Why are all members asked to complete the survey when they register for large events, like the ETFO PD day?

Events like the ETFO PD day offer the best possible snapshot of the percentage of our local membership that belongs to various equity-seeking groups.  This is essential to providing context for understanding the data from other events and activities.  

We ask all members to complete the survey when registering in an attempt to make sure that nobody is missed and to ensure the data is as reliable as possible.


How is this data used?

The data collected from the survey is anonymous.  At the end of each school year, the Equity and Social Justice Committee uses the aggregate data to produce the Self-Identification Data Report.  The report lists the data for each event/activity in an organized way (i.e. the percentage of participants who self-identifed in a particular way at each event).

The report is presented to the ETFO-WR Executive, Representative Council (Fed. Reps.), and to committee chairs for their information and consideration. It can be used to make events more inclusive, to inform local practices and decision-making, and as a resource when proposing new motions or initiatives.

This has been an active initiative in our local since 2017, and it continues to be developed and refined based on our evolving understanding, the leadership of ETFO Provincial, and the feedback of the membership.  Your participation in the project is appreciated.  Additional questions and feedback are welcomed by the Equity and Social Justice Committee.


Respectfully submitted by Ryan Wettlaufer (Equity and Social Justice Committee Chair).

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