Number of female directors hardly budges

Representation of women on boards rises just 0.4 per cent from 2017 to 2018

Number of female directors hardly budges

Women made up just 18.3 per cent (or 5,128) of the 28,071 directors in 9,232 corporations in Canada in 2018.

That is up just slightly from 17.9 per cent in 2017, but the total number is lower compared with the previous year (5,174), when there were 28,972 corporate board seats in 9,400 enterprises, according to Statistics Canada (StatCan).

Within the boards of directors included in the 2017 and 2018 dataset, female representation increased slightly, from 18.1 per cent to 18.3 per cent.

However, men continued to dominate as nearly two-thirds of corporate boards were composed entirely of male directors in 2017 and 2018. Also, only one in 10 boards of directors had more than one woman, while roughly one-quarter had just one woman director.

Newly recorded corporations in the 2018 dataset had a slightly lower share of women (18 per cent), says the government.

Female leadership is at a 20-year low, according to one expert.

Differences by sector

In 2017 and 2018, more than one-third of members of boards of government business entities were women, according to StatCan. This representation is higher compared with those in publicly traded companies (just over one in five) and privately held corporations (less than one in five).

This is the case even though the share of publicly traded corporations with at least one woman director was 56.5 per cent in 2018, up by 4.3 per cent from the previous year. Meanwhile, the proportion of private corporations with at least one woman on their board remained stable at 37 per cent.

And though some corporations have set targets of 30 per cent to 40 per cent for the representation of women on boards, just one-third of publicly traded companies (34.1 per cent) reached the target of at least 30 per cent in 2018, an increase of 2.2 per cent from 2017.

Just over one-quarter of private corporations met this threshold in 2017 (27.9 per cent) and 2018 (27.7 per cent).

The largest corporations have the higher share of women in boards at nearly a fifth for both 2017 (19.3 per cent) and 2018 (19.9 per cent). Among small corporations, the numbers were 18 per cent and 18.2 per cent, respectively.

Nearly six in 10 (57 per cent) of CEOs say their organization is somewhat or significantly more gender diverse now than five years ago.

“Building a strong pipeline of female talent is the key to promoting more women on boards. Companies can attract and retain qualified, talented women by developing a gender diversity strategy suited to its unique environment and needs,” according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). “Top leadership commitment is critical in creating a sustainable and meaningful change towards increasing women’s participation on boards.”

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