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gender equality

Arlene Dickinson, business entrepreneur and one of stars of Dragon's Den is photographed in Toronto, Ont. Sept. 16, 2011.KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/The Globe and Mail

Arlene Dickinson is used to being outnumbered.

Now the only woman on CBC's popular Dragons' Den panel is poised to take a lead role in making Canada's boardrooms more balanced when it comes to the sexes.

The television personality and successful communications entrepreneur will be announced as a member of a new advisory council of business leaders focused on women and boardrooms that will be unveiled Friday.

Rona Ambrose, the federal minister responsible for public works and the status of women, is scheduled to make the announcement alongside Ms. Dickinson and other members at the Toronto Stock Exchange.

A government source said the role of the council will be to advise Ms. Ambrose on how industry could increase the number of women on corporate boards over the next 10 years. The panel will also be asked to find the best way to measure the participation of women on boards and in senior-management positions and whether the government should be involved.

The council will also be asked to suggest ways of recognizing or rewarding companies that have met their targets for increasing the representation of women.

Plans for the panel were first announced more than a year ago in the 2012 budget. Friday's announcement will unveil the full list of panelists.

Reports by the non-profit group Catalyst indicate that women only make up about 10 per cent of directors on boards of publicly traded companies. Reports from Canada and the United States have noted little improvement in recent years in terms of increasing the percentage of women in senior positions.

However, last year one executive search firm – Spencer Stuart – reported signs of improvement in Canada's financial services sector. The firm projected women would make up 40 per cent of board directors in that sector within five years.