Company Disclosures on Women Show Canada’s Spinning its Wheels

  • Percentage of women directors, executive officers remains flat
  • Utilities, pipelines, media and financials are sector leaders

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked after his swearing-in ceremony why a cabinet equally balanced between women and men was important to him, he said, “Because it’s 2015.”

Many Canadian businesses, evidently, are still trapped in a different era.

Almost half of companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange still have zero women on the board 18 months after new securities rules required them to disclose leadership diversity targets, according to the latest report by Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, which said Canadian companies had made “little progress” in the past year.

Here’s where Canadian companies stand:

Impregnable Boards

Corporate boards remain particularly impregnable to female representation globally, even as women become increasingly well-established in medicine, law and banking, and head companies including General Motors Co. and easyJet Plc. Men hold over 80 percent of all S&P 500 board seats, while growth in directorships held by women has slowed.

The Canada chapter of the 30% Club -- a group of chief executive officers and chairmen pressing companies to add female board members -- is set to issue a white paper this week showing women are underrepresented in all industries in Canada at the board level.

Some industries are doing better than others:

Global Context

Companies in European countries including France, Norway, Germany and Italy face mandatory quotas for female representation in management and boards. Canada, like the U.K. and Australia, has adopted a policy requiring businesses to disclose and explain. The U.S. requires neither, according to the Osler report.

Canada squeaks into the top third of 44 nations compared by research firm Catalyst.

At least Canadian companies appear to be growing more cognizant of the issue: 62 percent said they consider gender when filling executive roles, up from 58 percent last year, according to the Osler report.

— With assistance by Eric Lam

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