Board diversity disclosure: a gender gap still exists, but is change on the horizon?

Board diversity and corporate governance

Boards are under increasing pressure from legislators, regulators, key stakeholders and the media to improve their gender diversity practices as the corporate governance landscape in Canada continues to evolve. Yet, despite the fact that increasing board diversity in corporate leadership roles continues to be a key focus, a gender gap persists in many boardrooms and more work needs to be done at the board level, as revealed by Osler’s fourth annual report, 2018 Diversity Disclosure Practices.  

Faced with mandated disclosure under securities laws regarding the representation of women on boards and in executive officer positions, more businesses in Canada will need to focus on committing to diversity disclosure and investing in diversifying their boards and senior management. The Ontario and federal governments have also demonstrated their clear interest in board diversity by announcing related initiatives in 2016. For example, the province of Ontario put forth a target that women should make up at least 40% of all provincial board and agency appointments by 2019. The federal government also introduced proposed amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) that would require CBCA companies to send annual diversity disclosure reports to shareholders. Draft regulations released in 2017 propose a “comply or explain” model respecting the representation of women on boards and in senior management as well.

In addition to complying with board diversity disclosure requirements, there are other incentives for companies to invest in gender diversity. Institutional shareholders are stepping up to express support for increased gender diversity among the companies in which they invest, and outlining the actions they will take if companies fail to demonstrate tangible progress on improving gender diversity on boards of directors.

Osler is sought after for its expertise in corporate governance matters. Members of our Corporate Governance team have chaired or served on committees established by federal and provincial governments and regulatory bodies to examine and make recommendations for improvements to governance rules and practices. This expertise, combined with a deep understanding of our clients and their businesses, allows us to offer practical and effective governance strategies tailored to the needs of each organization, regardless of size or jurisdiction. As new developments emerge, we will continue to update this page with the latest news, analysis and resources pertaining to diversity disclosure — be sure to check back for useful information.

Resources

Canada is first jurisdiction worldwide to require diversity disclosure beyond gender; Diversity disclosure rules will apply to federally incorporated public companies effective Jan. 1, 2020

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP — July 30, 2019

Effective January 1, 2020, corporations governed by the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) with publicly traded securities will be required to provide shareholders with information on the corporation’s policies and practices related to diversity on the board of directors and within senior management, including the number and percentage of members of the board and of senior management who are women, Aboriginal persons, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities. Read more


'Surprising and disappointing'; data gap on gender, minorities at top firms 

Toronto Star — July 18, 2019

The Canadian Press asked all firms included in the TSX 60 index as of January 1, 2019, to share data on how many women and employees who identify as visible minorities, as defined in the Employment Equity Act, worked at their companies in 2017. Read more


StatCan finds just 19.4 per cent of board directors are women

Toronto Star — May 7, 2019

Statistics Canada released its first ever comprehensive report on the representation of women on corporate boards, finding that just 19.4% of corporate board members in Canada are women and there is plenty of work to be done. Read more.


SEC encourages board diversity disclosure

Corporate Secretary — February 19, 2019

The SEC has given U.S. public companies a nudge toward disclosing details on how they take diversity into account when making decisions on board composition. Read more.


TSX-listed firms see more women on boards, but top tier still stagnant: report

The Globe and Mail — September 16, 2018

Osler partner Andrew MacDougall talks to The Globe and Mail about the slow rate of change in terms of gender diversity in the boardroom, as revealed in Osler’s fourth annual report on diversity disclosure practices. Read more. *Note: This article is available to The Globe and Mail online subscribers only.


Report: Diversity Disclosure Practices 2018 — Women in leadership roles at TSX-listed companies

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP — September 14, 2018

The survey results published in our fourth annual report on diversity disclosure practices at TSX-listed companies reveal more work needs to be done at the board level, and results at the executive officer level remain disappointing. Read the report.


The inclusion imperative: In 2018, building a better board means building a board that looks like Canada

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - May 30, 2018

The passage of Bill C-25, amending the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA), means that diversity disclosure requirements for all CBCA companies with publicly traded securities are expanded to include all “designated groups”—including not just women but also visible minorities, Aboriginals and people with disabilities. Read more.


Amend Bill C-25 to push companies harder to get more women on boards

Toronto Star - February 4, 2018

Osler’s 2017 Diversity Disclosure Practices Report revealed that there is still work to be done in terms of gender diversity at TSX-listed companies. According to this editorial in the Toronto Star, greater steps need to be taken to address this issue. Read more.


Drawing the line on diversity

Listed - December 13, 2017

Osler partner Andrew MacDougall says  the lack of vacant board seats that were filled by women in the past year was a “huge letdown,” according to an article in Listed. Read more.


EU to push for 40% quota for women on company boards

The Guardian - November 20, 2017

The European commission is trying to combat the slow progress of gender equality among the executive levels of publicly listed businesses by pushing for a quota for women on boards. Read more.


How HR can move the needle and get women on boards

Canadian HR Reporter - November 6, 2017

This article references Osler’s 2017 Diversity Disclosure Practices Report as evidence of glacial change on the gender diversity front, arguing that there’s a desperate need for more women on corporate boards. Read more.


Women comprise just 5 per cent of executive leadership roles in Canada’s tech sector

Toronto Star - November 1, 2017

The tech sector is particularly lacking in terms of gender diversity among executive leadership positions, with a report revealing just 5% of tech companies in Canada have a female founder. Read more.


Diversity on boards must change more quickly

Policy Options - October 27, 2017

While the percentage of board seats held by women has gradually increased, the progress is much too slow, Osler partner Andrew MacDougall writes for Policy Options. Read more.


TSX companies lag on board diversity, will not adopt targets: report

CIM Magazine - October 27, 2017

Osler partner Andrew MacDougall tells CIM Magazine that TSX-listed companies are making “excruciatingly slow progress” in appointing more women to their boards and executive positions. Read more.


TSX companies refuse to adopt gender parity targets: Report

Metro News - October 25, 2017

Setting targets is crucial for increasing the number of women on boards and in leadership roles at TSX-listed companies, Osler partner Andrew MacDougall tells Metro News. Read more.


Number of women on TSX boards inches higher: report

The Globe and Mail - September 18, 2017

Osler’s 2017 Diversity Disclosure Practices Report is referenced in this article to discuss how women occupied just 14.5% of board seats at TSX-listed companies as of July 31, 2017. Read more. *Note: This article is available to The Globe and Mail online subscribers only.


2017 Diversity Disclosure Practices Report: Women in leadership roles at TSX-listed companies

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - September 18, 2017

As the corporate governance landscape in Canada continues to evolve and prioritize gender diversity, Osler has released its third annual 2017 Diversity Disclosure Practices Report to provide an updated snapshot on the representation of women in leadership roles in corporate Canada. Read the report.


Executives call for new laws to get more women on corporate boards in Canada

CBC - April 3, 2017

A growing number of executives are calling for new strategies or laws to help get more women on boards in the wake of another report detailing the meager number of women directors. Read more.


Canada’s approach to board diversity needs a rethink

The Globe and Mail - March 22, 2017

The corporate response to the lack of women on boards in North America has been lacking, and Canada’s comply-or-explain regime has been ineffective, according to this article in The Globe and Mail. Read more.


Governance in 3D — Diversity, disclosure and director elections

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - December 6, 2016

As detailed in our “2016 Diversity Disclosure Practices” report, little progress has been made year-over-year in improving the level of representation of women on boards and in executive officer positions, even though diversity disclosure practices were increasingly under the microscope in 2016. Read more.


Board Diversity — Interactive tool for developing your policy

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - November 30, 2016

As a growing number of boards are prioritizing and reporting on their diversity practices — aligning with legislative and regulatory trends — Osler has worked with the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) to help streamline the process by developing the Board Diversity Policy template — a complimentary and convenient tool that acts as a starting point to assist boards in meeting their gender diversity disclosure requirements. Read more.


New policy template aims to encourage gender diversity on boards

The Globe and Mail - November 29, 2016

The board diversity policy template, developed by Osler in collaboration with the Institute of Corporate Directors, is an easy way for boards to “jump-start a dialogue” about board diversity, according to Osler partner Andrew MacDougall. Read more.


Significant corporate governance changes in proposed amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - October 24, 2016

The Canadian federal government introduced Bill C-25: An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act et al., which, among other things, proposed amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act that would require the disclosure of information respecting diversity among directors and senior management. Read more.


Diversity Disclosure Practices: Where are the women? (infographic)

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - October 7, 2016

Looking to find out how TSX-listed companies are stacking up in terms of gender diversity in corporate leadership roles, Osler’s Corporate Governance Practice Group analyzed disclosure relating to women in leadership roles made by TSX companies in 2016. The results highlighted in our 2016 Diversity Disclosure Practices Report indicate a number of areas for improvement. Read more.


Diversity Disclosure Practices 2016: Women in leadership roles at TSX-listed companies

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - September 8, 2016

Last year, we completed a comprehensive report on diversity disclosure practices, which reviewed disclosure relating to women in leadership roles by all TSX-listed companies, other than closed-end and exchange-traded funds, that made disclosure prior to July 31, 2015. The overall picture was disappointing. Read more.


Crisis Management and the Board (infographic)

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - May 18, 2016

A company’s board plays a crucial role in helping a company prepare for – and manage a crisis. Here’s how Canadian board members assess their readiness for a company crisis. Read more.


The board of directors’ role in crisis management

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - May 18, 2016

Preparedness and oversight of crisis management is a key responsibility of the board of directors. Osler surveyed 400 corporate directors across Canada for its white paper “The Board’s Role in Crisis Management” to learn how they’ve prepared and where more work is needed. Read more.


Best practices for improving gender diversity on boards and in senior management

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - February 1, 2016

Canadian issuers (other than TSX Venture Exchange issuers and investment funds) are now required to provide annual disclosure regarding the representation of women on boards and in executive officer positions. During the 2015 proxy season, Osler conducted a comprehensive survey of disclosure by TSX-listed issuers. The results revealed a need for improvement in several areas. Read more.


Governance: Board composition and compensation in the spotlight

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP - December 9, 2015

Board composition and recruitment were key governance issues in 2015 as a result of changes to corporate governance disclosure requirements and initiatives by institutional investors to promote proxy access in the United States and Canada. Read more.


Key Contacts

Diversity Disclosure Practices: Women in leadership roles at TSX-listed companies

Download PDF

Keep up to date with the latest corporate governance news that can impact your business.

Subscribe now

Women on boards and executive teams in corporate Canada | Diversity Disclosure Practices 2018

Osler Board Diversity Disclosure Watch now

Board Diversity Policy Template

Don’t have a board diversity policy? Use the template to simplify the process of drafting a gender diversity policy.

Access the template now

View the media coverage

Law Times — September 19, 2019 

The Globe and Mail — September 18, 2019