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Report on Business Women underrepresented on corporate boards in all industries, Statscan finds

Women accounted for 19.4 per cent of directors in 2016, while more than half of corporate boards of directors were comprised entirely of men in that year, a new Statistics Canada paper shows.

A first-ever assessment of the gender composition of various types of corporate boards in Canada finds women are still underrepresented in all industries, particularly on boards in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Numerous studies have examined the share of women on boards at publicly traded companies in Canada; this week’s release says it “fills an important data gap” by giving comprehensive estimates across all types of corporations: public and private corporations along with government business enterprises. This is the first time the agency has produced this type of report.

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“This is a more comprehensive sample. The message is the same, though: We still don’t have enough women on boards,” says Sarah Kaplan, professor and director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

This study didn’t include comparisons with other years. But annual reviews by provincial securities commissions have found that 15 per cent of board seats were held by women as of 2018, a moderate increase from 11 per cent in 2015.

The dataset from the Statscan study – based on nearly 13,000 corporations among which more than 44,000 directors were identified as board members – show government business enterprises (a category that includes entities such as Canada Post and Bank of Canada) had the largest share of women on boards while private corporations had the lowest share, at 17.4 per cent in 2016.

By sector, among all types of corporations, finance had the largest proportion of women on boards while energy, manufacturing and construction had the lowest shares. The study also examined representation of women on boards by country of control; it found Canadian-controlled entities had the highest share of women on boards, followed by those entities from France; those from Japan had the lowest.

This “is the first time that Statistics Canada has done this type of report, and it is also the first time in Canada that these estimates have been produced for all three types of entities,” the agency said in an e-mail.

It found that 56.8 per cent of boards were comprised entirely of men. Among private corporations, 27.6 per cent had one woman on their boards, 9.8 per cent had two women – and just 4.2 per cent had three or more women. Studies have found that having a “critical mass” of three or more female board members can boost innovation and create fundamental change in the boardroom.

Composition of corporate boards (2016)

One woman:

28.0%

More than

one woman:

15.2%

No women:

56.8%

Note: Includes public and private corporations, and

government business enterprises.

MATT LUNDY, THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATSCAN

Composition of corporate boards (2016)

One woman:

28.0%

More than

one woman:

15.2%

No women:

56.8%

Note: Includes public and private corporations, and government

business enterprises.

MATT LUNDY, THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATSCAN

Composition of corporate boards (2016)

One woman:

28.0%

More than

one woman:

15.2%

No women:

56.8%

Note: Includes public and private corporations, and government business enterprises.

MATT LUNDY, THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATSCAN

Evidence in research “suggests that [diverse boards] are going to be more effective, more deliberative, more careful, more likely to consider different kinds of risks than boards that are not diverse. We would have much stronger governance if we had more diverse boards,” said Prof. Kaplan.

Moreover, on representation, “these are the companies that are driving our economy and yet we don’t have women, and certainly not people of colour,” she added. “We don’t have them fully represented in those governance decisions and representation is incredibly important for thinking about who is making these choices and on behalf of whom.”

In the four years since the Ontario Securities Commission introduced “comply or explain” disclosure, the policy has led to more women on boards and fewer all-male boards, said a March report from Toronto-Dominion Bank. It noted, however, that this has not translated into much improvement in the representation of women who are senior executives in firms.

Statscan produced the study by integrating data from the Corporations Returns Act with other administrative data files, along with gender probability data based on first names in Canada.

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