Calgary’s boards, committees and commissions (BCCs) saw a record number of applicants after a big push to improve the diversity of members.
Still, parts of the city aren’t drawing as many candidates as others and that may be leaving gaps in equity that still need to be examined, councillors said.
This year, there were 178 vacant positions to fill on 29 internal and external BCCs, with a record of 992 applications. Of those, 754 were unique applicants, with 141 of the applicants applying to more than one post, according to the information contained in a briefing note on the Oct. 24 Organizational Meeting agenda.
The City Clerk’s Office focused the campaign on both seniors and youth, female skew, Indigenous peoples, Calgarians with disabilities, advocates for underrepresented groups, military support, public safety and those looking to build professional networks through volunteering.
While the majority of the BCC applications came from men aged 35 to 44 with an income of $90,000 to $150,000 and born in Canada, there was a marked increase in applications from other groups compared with 2022, the City Clerk’s Office said in their report.
They saw a 15 per cent jump in applicants with a disability, a 42 per cent increase in applicants from those identifying as 2SLGBTQIA+, 46 per cent increase in those identifying as a visible minority or person of colour, 48 per cent increase in women applicants, and an 81 per cent increase in newcomers.
“Several changes were introduced to enhance the campaign’s reach and effectiveness, including translating advertising to the top 10 languages spoken at home in Calgary, as well as targeted social media ads on platforms like LinkedIn,” read an emailed response from Jeremy Fraser, Deputy City Clerk.
“With the success of this year’s campaign, similar strategies will be considered in the future.”
Encouraging, with work yet to do
Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said the City has been working on a more robust application process to ensure the skill sets and diversity of representation on the various committees.
An increase in the number of applicants doesn’t guarantee quality candidates, however, Coun. Penner said many of the committees have had a hard time narrowing down potential members due to the high quality.
“We are lucky in the city to have so many fantastic people who are wanting to put their names forward and serve,” she said.
Ward 11 was among the top for applicant totals for 2023, but not the highest. That went to residents in Ward 8. Wards 5, 10 and 14 had the lowest applicant numbers. That’s been a perennial trend, according to the city’s data.
That could mean some parts of Calgary are underrepresented. Penner said she believes the City will continue to learn more to help fill potential voids. She said it’s hard to pinpoint why those numbers continue to be lower.
“I think what it also can tell us is if we’re doing targeted recruitment next year, where are those gaps and where do we need to be doing more recruitment so that we can ensure that we have representation from across the city,” she said.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the record applications is a good news story. She said the city’s taken significant steps to reach more members of the public with their communications in general – and for BCC applications.
“I think it’s been incredible to be on more diverse radio programming, to make sure that we are getting out into communities that traditionally don’t get this messaging and just hearing from a lot of Calgarians that we previously had not tapped into,” she said.
The City Clerk’s Office said they increased applications from all wards in 2023.
“We value diversity in all its forms, and it is an integral part of our planning and decision-making processes at The City,” read a response from the deputy city clerk.
“We are committed to continuous improvement and will take the information and lessons we’ve learned this year and apply them to our planning for next year.”