No progress for women or minorities at executive board level, diversity disclosure report finds – Canadian Lawyer

John M. Valley

Oct 14, 2020

Osler partner John Valley was interviewed by Canadian Lawyer to discuss the findings of Osler’s sixth annual comprehensive report, 2020 Diversity Disclosure Practices: Diversity and Leadership at Canadian public companies (the Report), which was released earlier in October. The Report revealed continued, slow growth in the advancement of women on boards, but no progress made for women at the executive officer level, few visible minority directors and a noticeable lack of directors who are Aboriginal peoples or persons with disabilities. The Report covers disclosure by TSX-listed companies as well as Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) companies subject to new diversity disclosure requirements beyond gender, based on amendments to the CBCA. John, co-author of the Report and a partner in Osler’s Corporate Governance Group, says the results were disappointing overall.

“As a result of amendments to the CBCA effective at the start of this year, for the first time we had a data set that covers diversity characteristics beyond gender,” John tells Canadian Lawyer. “Unfortunately, based on the companies that provided disclosure we saw some very low numbers across all the designated groups other than women, both in terms of the representation of those groups in the board room and in executive officer positions. We also saw that very few disclosing companies had established targets for the representation of members of these designated groups as directors or executive officers.”

The Report revealed that while women now hold 21.5% of all board seats of disclosing TSX-listed companies – an increase of nearly 3% compared to 2019 – the rate at which women are being appointed to fill newly created or vacated board seats declined slightly, and the proportion of women executive officers has remained largely unchanged over the past five years.

“I think this is due, in part, to the relatively small number of positions available in most corporations, and the relatively infrequent turnover,” says Valley. “There are organizations that provide strong disclosure about programs that they have in place to develop talent and provide opportunities for women, in particular. They describe how they are expanding the pipeline for female executive officers in the future.”

For more information, read author Lucy Saddleton’s article “Lack of minorities, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities on public company boards” in Canadian Lawyer on October 14, 2020.