News / Ottawa

Canadian companies have slightly more diversity on their boards

Canadian Board Diversity Council reports slight increase in women in director roles.

Canada's boards are still not diverse.

Reynermedia / Flickr

Canada's boards are still not diverse.

Canada’s major corporations have a few more women and a bit more diversity around their boardroom tables – but they are still a long way from reflecting the make-up of the country.

The Canadian Board Diversity Council released its annual survey this week showing that women now make up 21.6 per cent of the directors on the boards of 500 major Canadian companies. That’s up slightly from 19.5 per cent last year and up significantly from the 10.9 per cent in 2009, when they survey first began.

About 4.5 per cent of board directors said they were a member of a visible minority, 1.8 per cent identified as a person with disabilities, 0.6 identified as Indigenous, and 2.1 per cent said they were a member of the LGBTQ community.

Sean Hemraj, vice-president of business development and marketing for the Women's Executive Network, said the numbers are an improvement but there is a lot of work to do.

He said diversity is not just about better representation, but about better business.       

“It offers a different perspective that helps organizations recognize, adapt and innovate based on what is happening in the real world,” he said.

Not all Canadian industries are created equally on this front. Retail companies had the most gender diversity on the board, with 29.4 per cent, but mining and oil and gas firms were much lower, at 13.1 per cent.

Hemraj said some business have done a better job attracting women to their industry.

“We are seeing some sectors finance and insurance have more women – essentially in the talent pipeline – than others like mining, oil and gas,” he said.

He said those companies are concerned about the issue and they believe it’s just a matter of when.  

“We have spoken with representatives from those industries and it is definitely a high priority on their list, it is something they’re looking to improve on,” he said. 

Despite those numbers, 76 per cent of directors believe their board is diverse.

The Ontario Securities Regulator has required companies to disclose diversity since 2014 and a bill currently before Parliament would require all companies across the country to do the same.

Hemraj said that hasn’t moved the needle considerably, but they still believe it will.

“We haven’t seen that as of yet, but that is something we are still hoping to see an impact from.”

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