Drawing the line on diversity – Listed

Andrew MacDougall

Dec 13, 2017

Osler partner Andrew MacDougall says the lack of vacant board seats being filled by women in the past year was a “huge letdown,” according to an article in Listed. In her article, author Mai Nguyen examines the state of gender diversity at the C-suite and boardroom levels of Toronto Stock Exchange-listed (TSX-listed) companies. The article discusses how the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) is considering mandatory targets for women directors on their boards. The article also describes the fact that out of 505 board seats that were vacant and filled in the past year, only 26% were filled by women. Andrew, a partner in Osler’s Corporate Governance Group who co-authored Osler’s 2017 Diversity Disclosure Practices: Leadership roles at TSX-listed companies report (the Diversity Disclosure Report), says that change is happening at a glacial rate.

“The percentage [of female appointments] is not significant enough to result in any meaningful change,” Andrew tells Listed.

Andrew also points to the number of available board seats (505) as undermining one of the primary reasons that companies cite for the lack of gender diversity: the lack of available board seats. Osler’s Diversity Disclosure Report also revealed, among other things, that the majority of publicly traded companies (88%) have not adopted targets that would increase the number of women on their boards.

Since there is now talk of quotas being implemented, according to the Listed article, Andrew explains the implications.

“Companies that have quotas hate them,” Andrew tells Listed. “It gets past the barrier of an all-male board, but if you replaced a large percentage of members of boards all at once, that could have some adverse effects for decision-making because you’re losing continuity.”

Instead, Andrew argues that targets are the better route to take.

“If you don’t have a goal in mind, then you aren’t going to achieve it,” he says.

For more information, read Mai Nguyen’s article “Drawing the line on diversity” in Listed.