News and Announcements

Catalyst Proposes 25% Women on FP500 Boards by 2017

Corporate Canada’s leaders urge support for Catalyst Accord and pledge to overall goal

TORONTO—In a bold move that could transform the composition of Canada’s corporate boardrooms, Catalyst 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. Catalyst is initially supported in this initiative by RBC and Linamar Corporation, who have signed the Catalyst Accord.
The Catalyst Accord calls for participating companies to pledge to the agreed objective and submit interim goals to Catalyst, which will be kept confidential. To challenge the assumption that qualified women can’t be found and act on Catalyst research that shows the positive impact of sponsorship on women’s advancement, members of the Catalyst Canada Advisory Board will provide participating companies with a roster of board-ready women who they personally sponsor.
“The Catalyst Accord is more than a call to action—it closes the loop. At its core, it shows a highly focused commitment to increasing board diversity on the part of corporate Canada and it provides the tools to create that change,” said Deborah Gillis, Senior Vice President, Membership & Global Operations, Catalyst. “Not only can corporate Canada address this challenge, as other countries have done, but it can also demonstrate how much it prizes diversity—and smart business practices—by exercising leadership on this issue.”
The Catalyst Accord was created in response to the 2011 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors, just released, which shows that the proportion of women on Canadian boards rose only half a percentage point between 2009 and 2011. Women currently hold just 14.5 percent of board seats in FP500 companies, and 10.3 percent in public companies, the report revealed. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of FP500 companies and over 46 percent of public FP500 companies have zero women serving on their boards.
“Increasing women on boards is good for business—simply put, it’s the smart thing to do,” said RBC President and CEO Gord Nixon. “RBC has five women on its board and I’ve seen firsthand how their skills, experiences, and perspectives enhance boardroom discussion, deliberation, and ultimately business results. We've seen how focus and a shared commitment to recruiting women with the right skills can drive positive change.”
“Linamar Corporation is dedicated to having a diverse workforce and enjoying the many benefits and strategic balance of such. We believe that we should target proportionate representation of our workforce at every level. That means ensuring the same levels of representation of women at every level of management in the company as we see women represented overall within our company. That level of representation should extend all the way to our Board of Directors,” said Linda S. Hasenfratz, CEO and Director, Linamar Corporation.
In addition to providing a list of board-ready women candidates, distributed upon request to the boards of companies that sign the Accord, Catalyst has committed to:

  • Continue publishing its biennial Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors, which identifies companies with 25 percent or more women board directors (as well as those with zero women).
  • Maintain a rolling list of participating companies on its website.
  • Recognize a champion of board diversity at The Catalyst Canada Honours on November 5, 2012, and annually thereafter.
  • Work with corporate search firms to develop a voluntary code of conduct for efforts to recruit qualified women.
  • Marshal the support of other organizations interested in increasing gender diversity on corporate boards.

“If every FP500 company commits to filling a vacant board seat with one qualified woman, we can easily achieve at least 25 percent representation by 2017,” said Ms. Gillis. “Given the strong business case supporting gender diversity on corporate boards and the global trend to advance women to corporate boardrooms, we are confident that Canadian companies will harness the power of talented women leaders and seize this opportunity to lead and win.”
Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, and India, and more than 500 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women's advancement with the Catalyst Award.