The percentage of women on boards in Canada has increased to 14.4 per cent, according to the 2012 annual report card from the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC), in collaboration with the Conference Board of Canada and KPMG.
The research looked at gender diversity on all 500 boards of the FP500 using such sources as corporate websites. A survey was also completed by 267 FP500 board members.
But board diversity is increasing at a glacial pace in Canada and remains heavily influenced by the mining, oil and gas industries, said CBDC. With 809 board seats, these industries have the highest number of board seats of any sector in Canada but women hold only 7.7 per cent of board seats in this sector, up from 6.6 per cent in 2011.
Gender diversity increased at a faster pace in the finance and manufacturing industries. In finance and insurance, women now hold 22.7 per cent of the 635 board seats, up from 19.6 per cent in 2011 — a 15.8 per cent increase.
Utilities is now in second place at 20.7 per cent while the third largest industry, manufacturing, has women taking up 13.2 per cent of the 612 board seats, up from 9.7 per cent in 2011 — an increase of 36.1 per cent.
However, the percentage of Aboriginal Peoples sites at 1.1 per cent while the representation of visible minorities and persons with disabilities has slipped to 4.6 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.
And while 91 per cent of corporate board respondents said board diversity is either very important or somewhat important, diversity policies are very infrequently used in FP500 boards, found CBDC. Only 18 per cent of board members said their board has a written diversity policy, a decline of four per cent from last year.
The council would like to see a faster pace of change so there is a measured and steady increase in board diversity over the next 10 years to preclude the possibility that governments or regulators step in, as they have in a growing list of countries. CBDC does not support intervention or quotas but instead supports a made-in-Canada approach based on collaboration with the corporate director community to help boards recruit from a much larger talent pool.
The council’s call to action to boards is to replace at least one of every three retiring directors with a director of a diverse background; for nominating/governance committees to consider three board-ready diverse candidates for each open board seat; and for directors to sponsor individuals who are high-potential board candidates.
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