Men Fill 85% of Empty Canada Board Seats Despite New Rules

  • Turnover offers time to ‘get serious,’ regulator head says
  • 12% of all board seats occupied by women, review found

Canada’s corporate board seats continue to be filled overwhelmingly by men despite rules to encourage more diversity on Bay Street.

Women filled only 76 of 521 of vacant board seats this year, or 15 percent, according to a review by the Canadian Securities Administrators, an umbrella group of provincial regulators. The review found that 55 percent of the companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange have at least one female board member, a 6 percentage point increase from last year.

“Board turnover is the time when companies can provide leadership to get serious about increasing gender diversity,” Maureen Jensen, chair of the Ontario Securities Commission, said in a speech in Toronto, Tuesday. “We are asking you to make a difference and make gender diversity a priority on boards.”

The review found that 12 percent of all board seats are occupied by women, up from 11 percent last year. Companies with a policy related to female representation had women make up on average 18 percent of their board, compared with only 10 percent for those without such measures, according to the report. And 66 percent of companies disclosed they now specifically consider the representation of women in executive officer appointments, up from 53 percent a year ago.

Banks Advance

The utilities and retail industries had both the most women on their boards, and the fewest number of boards with no female representation. Conversely, the mining, oil and gas and technology industries had the most boards with zero women, and the greatest number of companies with no female executives.

The review, released Wednesday, was based on submitted disclosures from 677 companies that had their fiscal year-ends between the end of December and March of this year, and filed information forms by the end of July.

Most of Canada’s largest banks, which are seen as an “early adopter of diversity initiatives” were not actually part of the sample because their year-ends fell outside the review period, the regulators said. The six largest banks, which include Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank, have an average female board representation of 35 percent, according to their 2016 circulars, according to the report.

National Bank of Canada, with six women making up 38 percent of its board, has the highest totals among the largest lenders, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The regulator introduced “comply or explain” disclosure requirements in late 2014 for TSX-listed companies aimed at improving the representation of women in senior roles in corporate Canada.

The goal was to have women make up 30 percent of seats on boards.

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