Women Remain Underrepresented In Canadian Boardrooms

Ottawa, April 14, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Ottawa, April 14, 2021 – New research from The Conference Board of Canada has found that improved “comply or explain” disclosure requirements have failed to accelerate the entry of women into corporate boardrooms.

The research shows the rate at which women are being invited into Canada’s boardrooms remains slow among companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.  

Between 2015 and 2018, the representation of women on corporate boards in Canada rose from 11 per cent to 15 per cent. While increasing the proportion of women on boards by four percentage points represents some progress, the pace of change mirrors the increase seen in the three years immediately prior to Canada adopting “comply or explain” disclosure requirements that ask publicly traded companies to comply with disclosure requirements or explain their non-compliance.

At the current rate in which women are being appointed to corporate boards, it will take another 17 years to achieve gender parity in Canada’s boardrooms, The Conference Board research shows. More than half (53 per cent) of the board seats that became vacant in 2018 went to men and about a quarter (23 per cent) were left unfilled or eliminated.

“That only a quarter of board seats vacated each year are being filled by women is extremely disappointing,” says Dr. Susan Black, Chief Executive Officer of The Conference Board of Canada. “If there is a silver lining to be found in the current situation, it is that every boardroom vacancy represents an opportunity.”

The Conference Board’s research found that among the seven countries that used hard quotas, more progress has been made, with an average of 31 per cent female representation compared to an average of 26 per cent representation amongst 14 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries that use voluntary compliance measures.

There are a wide range of options that can be used to increase the representation of women on corporate boards, from increased investor pressure to binding government regulations. Legislative action is increasingly being used around the world to bring more women into boardrooms. Countries such as Norway and France have adopted representational targets of women on corporate boards that are legally binding and failure to comply is met with financial penalties.

“In Canada, comply or explain was a well-intentioned step toward increasing the number of women on corporate boards, but it is clear that it’s not a singular solution,” says Rob Davis, Chair of the Board and the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at KPMG in Canada. “Finding and implementing solutions that work in Canada is not only in the best interest of women, but it’s good for business and the bottom-line.”

KPMG was a member of the study’s Research Advisory Board.

The full report is available here. Media should contact media@conferenceboard.ca for access.

About the Conference Board of Canada:

The Conference Board of Canada is the country’s leading independent research organization. Our mission is to empower and inspire leaders to build a stronger future for all Canadians through our trusted research and unparalleled connections. Follow The Conference Board of Canada on Twitter @ConfBoardofCda

Media Contact:

The Conference Board of Canada

media@conferenceboard.ca  / 613-526-3090 ext. 224

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