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Diversity among directors and executives in Canada’s mining industry

Nov 21, 2023

This resource has been prepared with information from our 2023 Diversity Disclosure Practices: Diversity and leadership at Canadian public companies report.

Canada’s mining sector consistently ranks in the bottom tier of TSX-listed companies in both the number and percentage of women, minorities, Indigenous Peoples and persons with disabilities in director and senior executive positions. Modest gains are happening, particularly on mining boards, but familiar obstacles remain.

Mining has historically been an all-male industry and while that’s changed, women continue to deal with implicit and explicit bias, a lack of mentors and work-life conflict. Even today, the culture of the mining sector is still widely seen as the biggest reason young graduates opt for work in other sectors and many women choose to leave the industry in mid-career.

Naturally, these circumstances limit the pool of experienced women coming up through the ranks to become executives and directors. It also means women in the industry with board potential tend to have less visibility when new board seats are up for grabs. Many women may have worked with mining clients while at consulting firms, accounting firms or banks, and therefore have the industry knowledge and necessary acumen to make the transition. 

Latest diversity data

The disparity in diversity levels between Canadian mining companies and other TSX-listed firms is most pronounced for women directors. Data compiled for Osler’s 2023 Diversity Disclosure Practices report shows that 25% of directors at mining companies (mid-year 2023 results) were women (up from 22% at mid-year 2022), and compared to 28% for TSX-listed companies as a whole (based on 613 companies reporting) and 38% at S&P/TSX 60 companies (based on 56 companies reported). On a per-board basis, the number of women directors was 1.9, versus 2.26 women directors per board for TSX-listed companies overall as of mid-year 2023 (based on 53 companies reporting) and 4.42 for S&P/TSX 60 companies (of the 53 companies that provided disclosure).

Breakdown of number and percentages of women directors for mid-year 2023

The percentage of women executive officers at mining companies in mid-year 2023 was 17% (the same percentage as in 2022), below the TSX-listed average of 21% (568 companies disclosed).  On a per-company basis, the number of women executive officers was 1.2, compared to an average of 1.99 for all TSX-listed companies. By comparison, the average number of women executive officers was 3.54 and the average percentage was 27% at S&P/TSX 60 companies (based on 48 companies reporting).

Breakdown of number and percentages of women executive officers in 2023

Trends since 2015

Osler’s survey data for directors does indicate a substantial overall improvement since 2015. That year, only 7% of directors at mining companies were women. The rate of increase to 25% compares favourably to the improvement rate for all TSX-listed companies, where percentage representation rose to 28% in 2022 from 12% in 2015.

The story for women executive officers in the mining sector is much more static. Since 2015, despite minor fluctuations, there has been no significant change (from 13% in 2015 to 17% at mid-year 2023). This result compares less favourably to TSX-listed companies overall, where the percentage of women executive officers has moved from 15% in 2015 to 21% at mid-year 2023.

Industry associations are indicating they are prepared to move forward with change. In June 2023, the International Council on Mining and Metals announced additional steps their members will be taking to improve diversity and inclusion, including additional actions, setting goals, increasing transparency, and collaborating with external stakeholders. At the same time, the Mining Association of Canada introduced a new protocol designed to provide standards for their members to help them in establishing continual performance measurements for diversity and inclusion. Member companies will have to report on progress in 2024 and 2025, followed by a public reporting regime in 2026. On the corporate front, Vale, in their annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report 2022 committed to doubling the representation of women in their company from 13% to 26% by 2025. Between 2019 and 2022, the number of women in senior leadership positions at Vale has increased from 12.4% to 22.6%.

Best practices and sector leaders

Osler’s research has identified a number of Canadian mining companies that are consistent leaders in best practices to support such efforts. These include

  • Endeavour Mining plc – The company has placed an emphasis on developing a workforce whose diversity reflects that of the countries and communities in which it operates, as well as promoting a gender diverse workplace.
  • Cameco Corp. – In the communities where it operates, the company provides programs aimed at skill enhancement and training for Indigenous Peoples.

Looking ahead, the key to greater progress for Canadian mining companies overall looks to be replicating the practices and diversity performance of our largest miners at the mid-tier and junior levels.