Catalyst Accord: Women on Corporate Boards in Canada



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Call to Action

As corporations compete around the world for market share, ideas, and talent, it has never been more evident that women leaders are essential to business success. 

In recognition of this reality, initiatives to increase the proportion of women on corporate boards of directors have been put in place in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Australia. These measures—which range from mandated disclosure of diversity policies to self-imposed objectives to quotas for gender-balanced board representation—are motivated by compelling research showing that gender diversity can benefit corporate decision-making and business results.  

Canada—a country that counts diversity as a core value—is noticeably absent from the global boardroom diversity movement. 

In fact, the 2013 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors finds that only 15.9 percent of board seats in corporate Canada are held by women, an increase of just 1.5 percentage points since 2011. Approximately 40 percent of companies had no women board directors, and although one-fifth of companies have 25% or more women serving on their boards, more than one-third have zero women on their boards. Catalyst conducts this Census biennially and has found exceptionally slow growth each year.

But the status quo can change—indeed it must change if Canadian corporations want to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Increasing gender diversity in the boardroom is a business imperative, and corporate boards of directors must take intentional steps to include women leaders in their membership.

Catalyst now issues a call to action for Canadian corporations to increase the overall proportion of FP500 board seats held by women to 25 percent by 2017. 

Regardless of current representation of women—some boards currently have no women directors, while others have over 25 percent—all FP500 companies have a role to play in achieving this goal.   

Companies that accept the call to action made in the Catalyst Accord pledge to:

  • Increase the percentage of women on their Boards of Directors by 2017. 
  • Provide interim representation goals to Catalyst, which will be kept confidential.

To further encourage corporate boards to diversify their membership, the Catalyst Canada Advisory Board will:

  • Contribute names to a list of “board-ready” women that will be maintained by Catalyst and made available to any company that commits to the Catalyst Accord.  

To raise awareness and aid progress, Catalyst will:

  • Publish the biennial Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors, which includes lists of companies with zero women board directors and with 25 percent or more women board directors.
  • Recognize a champion of board diversity at The Catalyst Canada Honours on November 5, 2012. 
  • Work with corporate search firms to develop a voluntary code of conduct regarding searches for women who are qualified for board positions and recognize firms committed to this cause. 
  • Marshal support from other organizations that are concerned about the need to increase corporate board diversity. 

Catalyst is confident that with this strategic, collaborative approach, corporate Canada can become a global leader in expanding opportunities for women, boards, and business. 

To become a signatory of the Catalyst Accord, contact David Lau at +1 416 645 5868​ or [email protected].

View the Infographic.