Career resources for students from historically marginalized communities


Navigating your career options and seeking employment are 2 important components of your experience as a UBC student and future alumnus. If you are part of a historically marginalized group, you may benefit from learning about specific career navigation challenges or concerns that could arise for you. Historically marginalized groups are systemically disadvantaged based on their identities and confront barriers to equal access to employment.

These groups include, but are not limited to:

  • Indigenous peoples
  • Women
  • People of colour
  • People with disabilities, including invisible disabilities, such as neurodivergence, chronic illness and mental illness
  • Members of LGBTQ+ communities, including queer, transgender, non-binary, and gender-variant individuals

You may belong to more than one marginalized group. As you navigate these resources, consider your unique circumstances and reach out to a coach, advisor, mentor, or peer to develop strategies that take your intersecting identities and experiences into consideration.

Leverage your strengths

Your unique experiences have given you opportunities to develop strengths and strategies to thrive in the world. Consider how you are shaped by your experiences and practice translating them into skills and assets that employers understand and value.

Know your rights

As you embark on your career journey, it’s important that you understand your rights and are familiar with the legal policies in place that protect you as a citizen, employee, and an applicant throughout the recruitment and hiring process.

Read the information below on Canadian laws and legal bodies that protect Canadians against discrimination. Verify which types of anti-discrimination labour legislation or laws exist in your region or the jurisdiction where you are pursuing work, as legal protections can vary substantially.

National and provincial Canadian policies

The Canadian Human Rights Act provides human rights protections for individuals based on the following grounds: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability, or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

Each province in Canada has a Human Rights Code which provides legal protections to protected groups. In British Columbia, for example, the BC Human Rights Code establishes legal protections to employees and individuals seeking employment to be free from discrimination and harassment in all areas of recruitment, hiring, and employment, including discrimination based on race, colour, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, creed, and age.

Employers' obligations

The Employment Equity Act requires employers to establish equality within their organizations by ensuring representation from women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities.

Additionally, each province in Canada has employment standards, laws, and labour codes that set out minimum standards for working conditions and wages, such as British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act.

Typically, organizations will have policies in place that prohibit discrimination on the basis of protected grounds listed in its provincial Human Rights Codes. If an organization does not have policies in place, all workers are protected from workplace discrimination on the basis of prohibited grounds under the governing Human Rights Codes enacted in their province.

 For more information, visit the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s website.

Unionized positions

Unionized positions are also bound by collective agreements which set out workplace-specific working conditions, duties, wages, and other working terms. In these cases, collective agreements are bargained for between a trade union representing employees and the employer. Employment standards, labour codes, and collective agreements are designed to ensure employees receive fair treatment for their work, and establish guidelines for employers to ensure a fair working environment.

Illegal interview questions

Under the Employment Standards Act of BC, questions asked during the recruitment process pertaining to age, race, ancestry, religion, colour, sex, gender identity, marital status, physical/mental disability, place of origin, political beliefs, family status, and sexual orientation are illegal. All hiring decisions must be made on the basis of skills and qualifications related to the position.

If an employer or hiring manager asks you a question during the hiring or recruitment process about your social identity or a question related to a protected ground (e.g., your marital status, age, religion), get curious. Consider asking what they hope to know about your candidacy as it relates to the strengths and skills you bring to the position. This will usually get the conversation back on track, while ensuring you give the employer the information they need without disclosing information you are not comfortable with. For example, if an employer asks you if you are married, perhaps what they are actually wondering about is if you have values in common with other team members. Connect with a coach or Career Advisor if you have questions about navigating these situations.

Tips to get started

Do your research

Career navigation requires exploring what’s out there. For example, consider what opportunities exist and which employers are looking for talent. What makes a candidate a good fit? 

If you are looking for an employer that values and supports diversity, reflect on these research questions:

  • What policies exist at the organization that name the prohibition of discrimination in the workplace?
  • What evidence can you find about the employer that indicates the organization is inclusive (e.g., equity statements on job postings)? Check out the employee profiles on the organization’s website or check out LinkedIn profiles. Is the staff population diverse?
  • Is the organization listed online as an inclusive employer, recognized for diversity?
  • Does the organization welcome feedback on their products and services (e.g., is there a customer service feedback tool on their websites)? This may signify the organization is open to feedback, change, and learning.

Check out, a job search engine that helps job seekers find employers recognized for diversity.

Talk to people

Conduct informational interviews and ask people you know, or people working at an organization what the company culture is like:

  • Is the company interculturally fluent?
  • In what ways does the company celebrate diversity?
  • What is the company’s track record for hiring diverse peoples and practicing inclusion?
  • Are diverse peoples promoted into leadership or executive positions at the company, and are there diverse peoples holding leadership or executive positions at the company, currently?
  • Are there programs in place to support equity-seeking workers at the organization?
  • Is the organization open to learning (and unlearning) and implementing new inclusive practices?
  • How has the company responded when or if concerns have been raised by their staff?

Trust your decision-making practices

Your career journey is your own. Consider the ways you typically make decisions and incorporate those strategies into your career navigation. Trust yourself when gauging if an organization is the right fit for you, and whether the company values your contributions and identity.

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    About this guide

    This guide was developed on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam people and created in consultation and collaboration with students, alumni, staff, faculty and community partners who have lived, scholarly, and applied experience related to the subject matter. We are always open to feedback, and are committed to ongoing learning to help enhance the content of this guide.

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