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Five of the founding members of Canada’s chapter are prominent female CEOs and board chairs, including Heather Munroe-Blum, chair of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Officials from many of Canada's largest banks and accounting firms are among a blue-chip group of founding members of Canada's new 30% Club, a global organization aimed at promoting more women to senior corporate roles.

The organization is unveiling its Canadian founding members Tuesday and will announce that Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce chief executive officer Victor Dodig will head the club, following a handover by founding chair Spencer Lanthier.

The 30% Club was founded in Britain by financial industry executive Helena Morrissey, and has spread to eight other countries with local chapters. Its name refers to the group's goal to boost the proportion of women on boards of directors to 30 per cent in coming years.

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In Canada, the group has a target of 30-per-cent women on boards by 2020, but says the aim is an aspiration, and members of the organization do not have to adopt the target or have female representation at that level. The 28 founding members are chairs and CEOs of 22 different companies and business organizations.

They include three major banks – Bank of Montreal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and Royal Bank of Canada – as well as major accounting firms Ernst & Young Canada, PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada and KPMG Canada. There are also several media organizations, including The Globe and Mail, Postmedia Network Inc. and Torstar Corp.

Five of the founding members are prominent female CEOs and board chairs: Heather Munroe-Blum, chair of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board; Ellen Moore, CEO of Chubb Canada; Barbara Stymiest, chair of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Kathleen Taylor, chair of Royal Bank of Canada; and Phyllis Yaffe, chair of Cineplex Inc.

Mr. Lanthier said the founding membership was shaped in part by his own business network. He said he is disappointed there isn't more representation from outside Ontario in the founding group – which includes no one from Quebec – but said he hopes that will change as the group expands.

"My hope is that once we get this publicized and people get a better feel for it, people will come to the fore and want to be part of a successful organization," he said.

He said some people he spoke to balked at joining because of the club's 30-per-cent target, disagreeing with the concept of creating quotas for gender diversity. Mr. Lanthier said the concern is misplaced, and the club is strongly opposed to mandatory quotas and argues that the business community can promote diversity on a voluntary basis without regulatory intervention.

"We keep emphasizing this is not a quota, it's really aspirational goals," he said.

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Mr. Lanthier pointed to new statistics showing an early review of shareholder proxy circulars this year found 44 per cent of companies had not adopted formal policies for improving diversity on their boards, and warned that the business community runs the risk of having mandatory quotas imposed on publicly listed companies if enough progress is not made voluntarily.

The Ontario Securities Commission has said it will review progress on diversity after new reporting guidelines, introduced this year, have been in place for a few years.

"Adopting the goals of the 30% Club and keeping them in mind might be a step in the right direction to avoid the possibility of quotas as the OSC's solution to non-action," he said.

Stephanie MacKendrick, who co-heads the steering committee creating the Canadian chapter, said the organization plans to make a broader push to systematically approach all of Canada's 500 largest companies to invite chairs and CEOs to join the job.

She said the club has already formed three working groups to look at targeting women in the investment industry, at business schools and through the work of executive search firms.

Mr. Lanthier said Mr. Dodig will transition to the chair role in coming months as the group enters its operational period. Mr. Lanthier is the retired former CEO of KPMG Canada and led the startup of the new Canadian chapter, but said the club needs a chair who is working in business and has organizational resources to support the fledgling group.

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Founding members of the 30% Club Canada:

Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO, The Globe and Mail

Peter Dey, chair, Paradigm Capital Inc.

Victor Dodig, president and CEO, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

William Downe, CEO, Bank of Montreal

Darren Entwistle, executive chair, Telus Corp.

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Randall Findlay, chair Pembina Pipeline Corp.

Jay Forbes, CEO, MTS Allstream Inc.

Trent Henry, chair and CEO, Ernst & Young

John Honderich, chair, Torstar Corp.

Ellis Jacob, president and CEO, Cineplex Inc.

Claude Lamoureux, chair, Cordiant Capital Inc.

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Spencer Lanthier, chair, Ellis Don Inc.

David Leith, chair, MTS Allstream Inc.

John Manley, chair, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

Bill McFarland, CEO and senior partner, PwC

David McKay, president and CEO, Royal Bank of Canada

Samuel Mintzberg, chair, HSBC Bank Canada

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Heather Munroe-Blum, chair, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board

Ellen Moore, president & CEO, Chubb Canada

Rod Phillips, chair, Post Media Network Inc.

Robert Prichard, chair, Bank of Montreal and Metrolinx

Geoff Smith, president and CEO, Ellis Don Inc.

Barbara Stymiest, chair, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

Kathleen Taylor, chair, Royal Bank of Canada

William Thomas, CEO and senior partner, KPMG

Frank Vettese, managing partner and CEO, Deloitte

Edward Waitzer, chair, Liquor Control Board of Ontario

Mark Wiseman, president and CEO, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board

Phyllis Yaffe, chair, Cineplex Inc.

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