A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. Women remain underrepresented in boardrooms of Canadian companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange despite the introduction of disclosure requirements intended to boost their numbers, a study by the Conference Board of Canada has found. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. Women remain underrepresented in boardrooms of Canadian companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange despite the introduction of disclosure requirements intended to boost their numbers, a study by the Conference Board of Canada has found. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Women still underrepresented in boardrooms despite ‘comply-or-explain’ rule: study

The study found more than half of the board seats that became vacant in 2018 went to men

Women remain underrepresented in boardrooms of Canadian companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange despite the introduction of disclosure requirements intended to boost their numbers, a study by an Ottawa think tank has found.

The Conference Board of Canada said that while there is some progress in the proportion of women on corporate boards, the pace of change remains slow.

“More needs to be done if we’re going to achieve that goal of parity earlier,” said Susan Black, Conference Board CEO and lead author of the study, in an interview.

In 2015, the Ontario Securities Commission and other Canadian regulators implemented a so-called comply-or-explain rule, which requires most publicly traded companies to disclose the number of women in key positions or explain why they have not met their goals.

Women only made up 15 per cent of Canadian boards in 2018 – an increase of just four percentage points from 2015, when seven provinces and two territories introduced the disclosure requirements, the study found.

“(The) improved ‘comply or explain’ disclosure requirements have failed to accelerate the entry of women into corporate boardrooms,” the Conference Board report reads.

The study said there is no compelling evidence that disclosure has accelerated the inclusion of women on boards since a faster pace would have led to a greater increase in representation since 2015.

Black said the numbers demonstrate that requiring organizations to publicly state what they’re doing is not sufficient to change behaviours and speed up progress toward gender parity in boardrooms.

The study found more than half of the board seats that became vacant in 2018 went to men and about a quarter were left unfilled or eliminated.

“The good news is women still filled a quarter of the board seats; the bad news is women only fill a quarter of the board seats,” said Black.

If men and women were added to boards on a 50:50 ratio, boardrooms would reach parity in five years, she added.

Black said some approaches organizations can take to achieve this is by having specific diversity targets and board term limits, as well as keeping a list of potential board candidates and making sure that list is diverse.

Companies that adopted such diversity practices had consistently higher representation of women on their boards, the study said.

It recommended that companies expand their pool of senior women executives to develop the talent pipeline for women board members.

The Conference Board study compiled all public disclosure reporting data released by the Canadian Securities Administrators from 2015 to 2018, which included data from 589 companies.

Using 2016 data, Statistics Canada did a similar study in 2019 that found only 19.4 per cent of seats on corporate boards of directors across public, government and private organizations were filled by women, while more than half of all boards were composed entirely of men.

“At the current rate in which women are being appointed to corporate boards, it will take another 17 years to achieve gender parity in Canada’s boardrooms,” the report read.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

women in business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stock photo.
Grand Forks drug trafficker to be sentenced in Castlegar

Ryan Plotnikoff pleaded guilty to trafficking meth, following his November 2020 arrest by Grand Forks RCMP

Stuart Ashley Jones, 56, was at Grand Forks provincial court for sentencing on May 5, 2021. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks man shot by police during peak freshet sentenced to house arrest

Stuart Ashley Jones was shot by a Grand Forks Mountie after ramming two police cruisers in May 2018

Accused drug trafficker to plead to federal, provincial charges in June

Matthew Straume said he’d missed his last court date because he was ill

Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks sex crimes trial adjourned until summer

The trial was set to begin at the city courthouse Wednesday, May 5

Photo: Kathleen Saylors
Grand Forks city council votes down motion to support Penticton in paramountcy battle

Coun. Neil Krog insisted Penticton’s issue with Victoria is about city bylaws, not homelessness

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s latest COVID-19 restrictions cost thousands of service jobs

Part-time workers set back again by spike in virus spread

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Leaked report shows detailed B.C. COVID-19 data not being released to public

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Abbotsford school board trustee Phil Anderson has stepped down after sharing an offensive image on Facebook. (File photo)
Abbotsford trustee temporarily steps down after sharing post relating COVID masks to slavery

Phil Anderson to receive training to better understand provincial mask mandate after posting picture

B.C. announced the launch of an app May 7 that connects youth struggling with mental health and substance use with “life-saving” social services. (Screen grab)
5 years in the making: Mental health app for youth and children launches in B.C.

The province provided $1.6-million to fund a virtual care platform

Amazon has announced the creation of five new facilities in B.C., to employ about 2,000 people. (Amazon/Special to Black Press Media)
Amazon adds new facilities in Langley, Pitt Meadows, Delta, Vancouver

The Vancouver port centre will be the first Amazon centre to feature robotics in B.C.

Mahitha Mohan is working in Nelson as a community support worker at Community Connections Support Services. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Immigration pilot targets hard-to-fill jobs in West Kootenay

Program helps newcomers get permanent residency status in rural areas

Most Read