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Study finds large companies failing on gender diversity disclosure

A review of companies in the S&P/TSX 60 index show few are improving their diversity disclosure practices

Frances Twitty/iStockphoto

Most of Canada's largest public companies have done little to improve their disclosure to shareholders about their gender diversity practices despite facing pending new regulations on the issue.

A review of companies in the S&P/TSX 60 index show few are improving their diversity disclosure practices in advance of new disclosure rules expected to be finalized later this year by the Ontario Securities Commission, according to Sylvia Groves, president of Calgary-based consulting firm Governance Studio.

"The results of our scan are lacklustre to say the least," Ms. Groves said. "Very few of Canada's biggest corporations have made an effort to address gender diversity ahead of the coming disclosure regulations."

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The OSC published new comply-or-explain guidelines in January that would require companies to disclose annually to shareholders whether they have a policy to bolster diversity on their boards of directors and in senior management ranks. Companies could opt not to have a diversity policy, but would have to explain why they've made that decision. The rules are not in place yet. They have been issued for public comment, and A final version of the proposal is expected to be published later this year.

The Governance Studio review examined whether companies were getting out ahead of the requirement to improve their diversity disclosures in their 2014 proxy circulars for shareholders, and found almost half of the companies did not mention the term diversity at all in their proxy circulars at all this year, while 38 per cent discussed it in some meaningful way.

However, the review concluded that only 13 per cent clearly addressed the issue of diversity, explaining what action they have taken and disclosing specific information on at least one facet of diversity within the company or board.

The report singles out Cameco Corp., saying the Saskatoon-based uranium company is a role model with a transparent disclosure of its specific goals and its progress to date on achieving greater gender and other types of diversity.

The review also praised National Bank of Canada for setting a goal of gender parity for its board and disclosing that almost half its senior officer positions are held by women. Goldcorp Inc. was lauded for disclosing a strong diversity initiative that extends throughout the company.

While disclosure is lacking at many companies, the study found they have nonetheless made progress on adding women to their boards.

The review shows that 43 per cent of Canada's 60 largest companies have three or more women on their boards, which is far above average for all companies. Women comprise only 13 per cent of directors on the boards of all companies in the broader S&P/TSX composite index.

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The report shows four companies in the S&P 60 index have no female directors: Crescent Point Energy Corp., Eldorado Gold Corp., First Quantum Minerals Ltd. and Yamana Gold Inc.

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About the Author
Real Estate Reporter

Janet McFarland is the real estate reporter for The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, with a focus on residential real estate trends. She joined Report on Business in 1995, and has specialized in reporting on corporate governance, executive compensation, pension policy, business law, securities regulation and enforcement of white-collar crime. More

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