15 July 2010, 5.19pm, Brookfield Place (formerly BCE), Toronto, Ontario
It was a valid question a few years ago, asked twice in two years by my cousins while visiting my workplace on Take Your Kids to Work Day for Grade 9 students in Ontario. The original question was whispered at my desk along the lines of: "Yo, Aman, where are all the brown people?" Sorry, kiddo, we're not at your GTA high school anymore. Welcome to the professional world where, unlike some GTA high schools, visible ethnic diversity just hasn't caught up yet.
It depends, of course, on the industry you're in and the role that you're playing. Some industries are thought to be more diverse than others; some firms are the exception to the rule. I used to be an in-house editor for a few companies in the Canadian publishing industry. Though I was living and working in multicultural Toronto, at times during editorial meetings, company dinners, and industry events, I would be the only ethnic person in the room.
When I switched over to the financial industry, I thought the guest list would be more diverse. Not exactly. Once on Bay St, while I could see plenty of brown faces passing through crowds along the concourses and food courts, at first look I couldn't see many ethnic faces in any leading visible roles within the firms. Nor were my fellow desi faces in the hallways at work always friendly. (Why, people, why? Smile and say hello, it's not like I know any of your dirty secrets.)
Three years later I have since met, of different ethnic backgrounds, some rising stars and established professionals who stand as role models. Last summer, I lunched with a senior bank executive, who also happens to be a smart, strong Sikh woman. Her advice: "Don't leave Bay St." I now understand what she meant. When I look around, I see the view is slowly changing. I take comfort in noting that I'm no longer the only ethnic person in the room. Or the only brown person in the room. Or the only woman in the room. All of which is awesome.