Women In Corporate Canada: Boards Continue To Add Women, But Progress At The Executive Level Is Modest

Author:Ms Rima Ramchandani and David Seville
Profession:Torys LLP

Canada's securities regulators have published their fifth study reporting on key trends relating to female representation on public company boards and in executive officer positions. The "Report on Fifth Staff Review of Disclosure Regarding Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions" tracks metrics between 2015 and 2019 for 641 TSX-listed companies whose fiscal years ended between December 31, 2018 and March 31, 2019.

As Canada's largest banks have fiscal year ends of October 31, they were excluded from the study—as a result, the data is somewhat skewed as the banks have above-average numbers of women in leadership positions. For instance, the boards of directors of the six largest banks are, on average, 38% female, while the boards of directors of the companies in the study are, on average, 17% female.

Female representation on boards

The good news

Some measures reported in the study indicate that real progress has been made towards increasing female representation on boards since 2015 when the disclosure rules became effective.

73% of issuersup from 49% in 2015have at least one woman on their boards. The manufacturing industry leads the way with 93% of issuers with one or more women on the board, up from 60% in 2015. The retail and utilities industries are close behind with 86% and 85% of issuers, respectively, with at least one woman on the board. While the mining, oil and gas and technology sectors continue to lag, issuers in these areas have made significant strides over the last five years. The percentage of companies with at least one woman on their boards has increased from 35% to 62% in the mining industry, from 40% to 70% in the oil and gas industry, and from 39% to 73% in the technology industry. Targets at the board level are gaining momentum. The percentage of issuers who have adopted targets for the representation of women on their boards increased to 22% in 2019up from 16% in 2018 and more than triple the 2015 figure of 7%. Issuers with targets have more women on the boardan average of 24% female directors, while those without targets have an average of 15% female directors. 50% of issuers have adopted a policy relating to the representation of women on their boardsa significant increase from the 2015 figure of 15%. Issuers with diversity policies have more women on the boardan average of 21% female directors, while those without diversity policies have an average of 13% female directors. The not-so-good...

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