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How can we get more women on boards? Ontario wants your input

The province is also looking for input on how to close the gender wage gap, combat violence against women, and increase child care as part of new survey.

Towa Beer has sat on small boards in the past but now can't find a spot on other boards.

Eduardo Lima/Metro / Metro

Towa Beer has sat on small boards in the past but now can't find a spot on other boards.

The province is in the beginning stages of forming a strategy to help women overcome barriers to economic empowerment.

An online survey released this month is soliciting feedback on ways to close the gender wage gap, combat gender-based violence, improve child care and get more women on boards.

While experts are lauding the province for turning its attention to the issue, they’re also casting doubt on the necessity and efficacy of the survey.

“My only thought is: Please, do we need more research?” Rina Fraticelli, executive director at the Women in View advocacy group, told Metro in an email. “There have been multitudes of studies indicating quite clearly that what is required is legislating numerical equity.”

Metro's ongoing Women on Boards series has outlined the problems faced by women making bids for a seat in public- and private-sector boardrooms. Across Canada, women account for 20.8 per cent of the S&P/TSX 60’s board seats.

The province toyed with the idea of legislating equity when it set a target to have 40 per cent of members of provincial boards be women by 2019. It encouraged businesses to reach 30 per cent by the end of 2017 but stopped short of vowing to penalize those that don't reach the benchmark.

Status of Women Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris said the province is “open to more stringent steps.”

“If it comes to a point where we feel (boards) can do more and if we feel they aren't moving fast enough, we will consider other steps,” she said, though she declined to say what measures could be used and stressed the survey would provide “a sense of what's happening on the ground.”

Tanya van Biesen, executive director of Catalyst Canada, an organization advocating for gender parity, said the province is already well-informed about the issue, so the survey is unlikely to unearth any new solutions.

“I don’t think there will be a silver bullet ... this will just reinforce what they’ve already heard,” she said. 

Some of the ideas suggested for getting more women on boards:

Lina Duque

"Women don’t toot their own horns out of fear of being perceived as too self-promoting. We need to invest in programs to train and develop women to advocate for themselves as leaders and to champion their own careers so they’re best positioned for C-suite and board roles."

Marie Bountrogianni

“Tax incentives for businesses and institutions that promote equal opportunities for women in learning and working environments would be a good start."

Towa Beer

“Celebrate the boards that do well and encourage more to do the same with awareness campaigns at all levels of business.”

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