Progress for women on boards, less for Indigenous, minorities and those with disabilities – Canadian Lawyer

Andrew MacDougall, Jennifer Jeffrey

Oct 29, 2021

While modest gains have been made for women at the board level in the past year, the same cannot be said for members of visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, and persons with disabilities. This was a key observation made by Andrew MacDougall, partner, Corporate, and  Jennifer Jeffrey, associate, Corporate, during an interview with Canadian Lawyer following the release of the 2021 Diversity Disclosure Practices: Diversity and leadership at Canadian public companies [PDF] report.

“Things are progressing, but definitely not progressing nearly as quickly as we and a lot of other people had hoped for,” says Andrew. The good news is women now hold 23.4% of board seats among TSX-listed companies disclosing the number of women on their boards, an increase of almost two percentage points over last year. Andrew notes there has been more progress for women on corporate boards since large institutional investors identified more women and diversity on boards.

Andrew and Jennifer say setting targets is perhaps one reason larger companies are more successful in adding female directors. Targets for women directors have been adopted by 71.7% of the S&P/TSX 60 companies.

However, Jennifer says women have made little progress at the executive officer level. The proportion of women executive officers increased slightly to 18.2% from 17% last year, but has been mostly unchanged since 2015 when it was 15%.

With regard to the disappointing results in getting more members of Indigenous communities and persons with disabilities on boards, Andrew says that among the reasons given for slow progress on categories other than women is women make up a significant proportion of the overall population. He adds that disclosure requirements and targets for women have been around longer, unlike for Indigenous, minorities and disabled groups.

Read the full article by Zena Olijnyk posted on October 26, 2021