More women, less minorities in boardrooms: survey


Women have made inroads in Canadian boardrooms, but not minorities and persons with disabilities, according to the Canadian Board Diversity Council's annual survey results.

The third annual report, released Thursday, found that women now hold 14.4 per cent of all board seats at Canada’s 500 largest organizations, according to a Toronto Star article.

Seats held by aboriginal peoples is up to 1.1 per cent since the council’s first study in 2010,  whiles seats held by visible minorities and persons with disabilities slipped to 4.6 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.

“There does seem to be a growing recognition of the importance of having more diverse boards. Certainly the overall pace is very slow but there is a steady improvement,” said Pamela Jeffery, founder of the Canadian Board Diversity Council to the Star.

The annual study is conducted in association with The Conference Board of Canada and KPMG LLP and is comprised of companies in finance and insurance, utilities, retail and trade, manufacturing, and mining, oil and gas.

Gender diversity is most apparent in the finance and insurance sector, as well as manufacturing, where there's been a 36 per cent increase since 2011 in the number of seats held by women.

Along with management experience, expertise, industry knowledge, age and academic credentials, the council wants boards to add ethnicity, gender, and aboriginal status when recruiting board members.

“There’s a running joke that if Lehman Brothers were Lehman Sisters, we wouldn’t be in this mess. I think there’s some truth to that,” said Michael Bach, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at KPMG.

The Star reported that studies showed that companies that have a diverse slate of directors deliver better financial performance than those that don’t, as different perspectives are included in problem solving.

Only 18 per cent of boards have a written diversity policy even though 91 per cent of companies had said that board diversity is important.

The council will unveil its Diversity 50 list on Nov. 26, what it calls Canada’s first database of qualified, skilled individuals who reflect the diversity of Canada’s broader population, and are available to join corporate boards.

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