Women, visible minorities, Indigenous and those with disabilities vastly underrepresented on boards – Canadian Lawyer

Andrew MacDougall, Jennifer Jeffrey

Jun 2, 2021

A Corporations Canada report on the results of the first year of mandatory diversity disclosure on corporate boards highlights some dismal findings pertaining to the underrepresentation of women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples and those with disabilities in leadership positions in public companies. Despite these results, in an interview with Canadian Lawyer magazine, Osler’s Andrew MacDougall, a partner in the firm’s Corporate practice, says the fact that Corporations Canada has the mandate to report on mandatory diversity disclosure is a positive, providing the opportunity to obtain meaningful data previously unavailable.

This type of information “should force a stronger examination of recruitment processes, and a more diligent approach to recruitment of directors than historically has been in place,” says Andrew. “It could have a big impact on making boards better with a focus on diversity.”

Andrew told Canadian Lawyer that considerable effort is required if publicly-traded Canadian corporations are to achieve the aspirational goals of the federal government’s 50 – 30 challenge. This challenge looks for gender parity on Canadian boards and senior management of 50% and 30% representation on Canadian boards and senior management of other under-represented groups.

In the same interview, Osler’s Jennifer Jeffrey, an associate also in the Corporate group, says companies “should really strive” to deal with any impediments in advancing women and other under-represented groups on corporate boards and senior management. “It’s just good for companies, from many perspectives, but perhaps one of the more important ones is changing the internal corporate culture of organizations,” she says. “It should be top of mind when it comes to developing corporate governance policies.”

While the disclosure rules will help “move the dial”, especially with more institutional investors weighing in on the topic, Jennifer says it may become necessary to implement a quota system if a change is to come more quickly.

Read the full article in Canadian Lawyer.