Accueil » 36-2 ( 1981) » Hiérarchie ethnique dans la grande entreprise montréalaise

Hiérarchie ethnique dans la grande entreprise montréalaise

Jean-Marie Rainville


Cet article montre comment les Canadiens-français occupent une fonction d'infériorité à l'intérieur de l'entreprise.


Ethnic Hierarchy in Montréal’s Large Industrial Corporations

Can French Canadians expect a career similar to that of their English-speaking compatriots in large industrial corporations controlled by foreign or canadian capital? Based on empirical analysis, the answer to this question is "no". The career pat-tern of French Canadians places them in a state of formal subordination to the organization, while, on the contrary, English Canadians occupy a dominant position. We explain this major finding by developing the three following points: the hypothesis of our research, the sample and the results obtained.

1-The hypothesis

Two hypotheses prevail in the scientific literature concerning the position of subordination which French Canadians occupy in the socio-economic structure of Québec society. The older of these proposes that the cultural heritage of French Canadians, based on social values such as family, authoritarianism, Catholicism and ethnocentricity are incompatible with the values of the business world such as economic rationality, competition, achievement and leadership and that this incompatibility underlies the social division of labour between French and English ethnic groups in the large industrial corporation. The more recent proposes that the social division of labour can be explained by structural factors such as ethnicity. In this regard, the so-called "Quiet Revolution" did not engender a significant change in either the socio-economic structure, or the traditional social division of labour. Some studies have shown that Francophones were still, at the beginning of the six-ties, one of the lesser paid linguistic groups in the province of Québec; furthermore, recent research shows that among highly qualified manpower, bilinguals of English Canadian origin earned more in 1973, in the province of Québec, than bilinguals of French Canadian origin. In other words, bilinguism is more favourable to English Canadians from an economic point of view. In line with these findings, other research shows that, at the upper levels of administrative hierarchy, the social cleavage between these two ethnic groups becomes complete and is explained by ethnicity. Our study consists of describing and analysing some mechanisms that lead to this social division of labour. More precisely, the hypothesis that career patterns, as well as attitudes that originate from them (such as leadership and interest in work) vary according to ethnicity, is supported by our data.

2-The sample

All the selected organizations (ten) are either Canadian corporations or divisions or branch plants of multinational corporations controlled by foreign management, except one which recently became French Canadian. In all cases, the personnel is ethnically heterogeneous. English Canadians, French Canadians, naturalized Canadians, foreign nationals are to be found among their management personnel.

From the point of view of size, half the organizations of our sample range between one thousand (1 000) and fifteen hundred (1 500) employees, and the others have no less than three hundred (300). All of them were located in the metropolitan region of Montréal, during the period of this survey: 1974.

The individuals who are the objects of this study were chosen among the managerial personnel of the industrial establishments. The study was restricted to the managers of various departments, and to personnel located at the hierarchical level immediately below them, viz: the superintendents.

In general, the level of education, the social origins and the occupational rank are identical for both ethnic groups. Age and seniority, however, differ according to ethnicity.

3-The results

Ethnicity appears as the major constraint leading the French Canadians as a group to career failure. The language factor certainly cannot be eliminated, but does not constitute a sufficient explanation of the observed differences between both ethnic groups. Career, and leadership that is related to it, favour exclusively the integration of the English Canadians to the organization. Two career models determine two leadership styles that result in locating the English Canadians in a position of domination and the French Canadians in a position of subordination. Career progress for the French Canadians is a function of seniority in the organization, while the English Canadians are coopted by management by virtue of their social origins; the French Canadians move slowly, step by step, up the administrative rungs, while the English Canadians may sidestep them totally by lateral entrance into the organization, or very quickly move up the same rungs. On the other hand, the French Canadians try to protect their career by means of bureaucratic formalism, and the English Canadians by recognition of their personality. In summary, the career pat-tern of the French Canadians is quite uniform in the sense that it follows a near-perfect administrative rationality; by contrast, the career pattern of the English Canadians is individualized and not subject to this rationality.