Increasing the Representation of Women on Canadian Boards

A national goal of

30%

women on boards

by 2019

The Report, “Good for Business: A Plan to Promote More Women on Canadian Boards” laid out aspirational goals for Canada’s public and private sectors, most notably, a national goal of 30% women on boards by 2019, as well as a number of best practices in use to successfully advance more women into board positions.

The Report builds on the 2013 Business Case for Women on Boards, drafted by the Conference Board of Canada on behalf of the Forum of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers for the Status of Women. This document highlighted the importance of board gender diversity in an increasingly competitive global market, positioning the issue of women on boards as a business imperative.

As of October 2014, nearly 20.8% of corporate board positions at Canadian stock index companies are held by women in Canada. (Catalyst, October 2014)

“Everything we do [to appoint women] we do with a mercenary attitude to enhance our own benefits and profitability, and I think that’s what makes it sustainable. I wonder where the other leaders are that they don’t know successful women? It is important to note that, while women now represent nearly half the Canadian workforce, they hold just 20.8% of board positions at Canadian stock index companies.”

Michael Cooper, CEO, Dream Unlimited Corp
Globe and Mail, June 26, 2014

Since the launch of the Advisory Council’s report, momentum has continued to build. In 2014, Minister Leitch engaged with federally regulated and FP500 companies, and the response was very positive as many of them endorsed the recommendations put forward by the Advisory Council and shared their best practices.

Federal leadership – Setting the example

36%

of GiC

appointments

in 2014

The importance of gender balance in governance is not limited to the private sector. In fact, balanced representation of women within Governor-in-Council (GiC) appointed positions is a priority for the Government of Canada. Canada has already exceeded the Advisory Council’s recommended goal, with women representing roughly 36% of GiC appointments in 2014, which represents a significant increase since 2012, as women represented less than 30%.

In 2014, the Ontario Securities Commission implemented a mandatory “comply or explain” amendment, requiring businesses to report annually on the gender composition of their boards of directors. Most jurisdictions across the country have followed suit and adopted the same amendments.

To complement the efforts of provincial and territorial counterparts, the Government of Canada announced, through Economic Action Plan 2015, its intention to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act to promote gender diversity among public companies, using the “comply or explain” model of disclosure.

Working with partners to influence change

Stakeholders are essential to continuing to increase the representation of women on boards.

There are a number of leading organizations in Canada promoting the importance of board gender balance, including Catalyst Canada, the Canadian Board Diversity Council and the Women’s Executive Network.

The Catalyst Accord continues to call on Canadian corporations to increase the overall proportion of FP500 board seats held by women to 25 percent by 2017. High profile signatories continue to come on board, including the addition of the first mining company, Goldcorp Inc.

“Gender diversity on boards helps drive better business results and strengthens Canada’s economic competitiveness. We encourage organizations across all industries to develop their own strategies and action plans for accelerating the advancement of women in leadership.”

Chuck Jeannes, President and CEO, Goldcorp Inc

Canada has also seen the creation of the Canadian branch of the successful UK initiative, The 30% Club. Inaugural Chair Spencer Lanthier, former Chair of the Bank of Canada, has been given the mandate to seek Canadian board chairs and chief executive officers to join the organization and pledge their support for gender diversity on boards.

Both Catalyst and the Canadian Board Diversity Council produce lists of board ready women and both organizations operate mentoring and championing programs.

In addition, a number of executive search firms targeting women have emerged in recent years, providing opportunities for the skills and expertise of women business leaders to be showcased.

With the wealth of activity to address board gender balance in Canada, momentum is building to reach the proposed goal of 30% representation by 2019. With “comply or explain” requirements implemented or being implemented across the country, business leaders on the cutting edge know that now is the time to take action.

The way forward

With the wealth of activity to address board gender balance in Canada, momentum is building to reach the proposed goal of 30% representation by 2019. With “comply or explain” requirements implemented or being implemented across the country, business leaders on the cutting edge know that now is the time to take action.

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