Women occupy 19.5 per cent of seats on corporate boards, study finds

TORONTO – A new report says women hold 19.5 per cent of the seats on the boards of Canada’s biggest companies, up from 17.1 per cent in 2014.

The report by the Canadian Board Diversity Council says it’s the largest one-year increase in female representation on the boards of FP500 companies, which are Canada’s largest firms by revenue, since 2001.

The rise follows the introduction of a new “comply or explain” policy that forces publicly traded companies to disclose certain statistics on the representation of women on their boards and in executive officer positions.

Securities regulators in every province and territory except for Prince Edward Island, Alberta and British Columbia implemented the “comply or explain” rules at the end of last year.

Pamela Jeffery, the founder of the Canadian Board Diversity Council, says that although Canada is heading in the right direction, the pace of change is too slow.

Jeffery says securities regulators should force publicly traded companies to have written board diversity policies rather than merely requiring the companies to disclose whether or not they have such a policy in place.

“It’s disappointing to me that companies did a lot more explaining instead of complying,” Jeffery said in an interview.

In the United Kingdom, there are no all-male boards in the FTSE100 — the 100 largest London Stock Exchange-listed companies based on market capitalization.

In the FTSE250, the next 250 largest companies on the London Stock Exchange, that are only 15 companies that have no women on their boards.

In comparison, 109 of the companies in Canada’s FP500 have boards comprised entirely of men, said Jeffery.

“In the context of board diversity at a global level, Canada is falling behind,” said Jeffery.

Jeffery says one of the reasons commonly cited by companies for not having more women on their boards is a lack of qualified candidates.

However, Jeffery points to the Diversity 50 — a list of 50 diverse, board-ready candidates published annually by the Canada Board Diversity Council — as proof that qualified candidates do exist.

“Don’t tell me there are no women with the skills to be on executive teams and boards of directors in 2015, because the rest of the world is proving us wrong,” Jeffery said.

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