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New Catalyst Study Shows Women Vastly Underrepresented in Corporate Canada’s Boardrooms

Forty years after the Royal Commission on the Status of Women took steps to ensure that women had equal opportunities with men in all aspects of Canadian society, gender equality remains elusive in Canada’s boardrooms. Findings from the 2009 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors, released today at a Women of Influence luncheon in Toronto, reveal that women hold 14 percent of director positions in the FP500, an increase of only one percentage point in two years. Moreover, the study showed that nearly 45 percent of public companies have no women board directors at all.

“Corporate Canada must recognize that, competitively, they are playing with ‘half a deck’ when they ignore the marketplace and workforce and overlook appointing women to board service,” said Deborah Gillis, Catalyst’s Vice President, North America. “In 2010, the argument that companies can’t find women to sit on boards simply doesn’t work. Catalyst research shows that looking beyond company heads—21 women currently lead FP500 companies— to the broader corporate officer pool expands by more than 30 times the number of qualified women available for board service.”

Among the study’s findings were the following:

  • Women held just 10.3 percent of board seats in Canadian public companies compared to 15.2 percent of Fortune 500 companies, most of which are public.
  • As in 2007, in 2009, crown companies had the highest representation of women on their boards while public companies had the lowest.
  • Private companies saw the biggest boost, where the percentage of women board directors increased four percentage points (12 percent in 2007 to 16 percent in 2009).
  • The Arts, Entertainment and Recreation industry led in representation of women board directors, while the Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction industry had the lowest.

Ms. Gillis pointed to the need for Canadian companies to “nab the best women now”— or risk losing them to proactive, multi-national companies already seeking to add qualified women to their boards. “Canadian companies and their recruiters need to act quickly and broaden the criteria for board roles, ” said Ms. Gillis.

Since Catalyst’s research shows a strong correlation between women’s representation on boards and better financial performance, shareholders—women and men—have an interest in calling for equity in the boardroom, according to Catalyst. At the same time, Catalyst recommends that individual leaders tap into the broad range of qualified women candidates, call for diverse slates, and advance names of qualified and talented women to nominating committees.

For media enquiries: please contact Charmain Emerson, Building Block Communications (416) 588-8514 (work), (416) 857-9401 (mobile), [email protected]; or Susan Nierenberg, Catalyst, (646) 388-7744 (direct), (212) 514-7600 ext. 333 (work), [email protected]

The 2009 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors is a rigorous and precise count of the women on boards in FP500 companies as of June 2, 2009. Catalyst gathered data from public sources, including annual reports, annual information forms, proxy statements, and government databases. To ensure the accuracy of the data, Catalyst provided companies with timely opportunities to confirm the accuracy of their data. In 2009, 478 of the 500 companies (95.6 percent) verified their data.

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and more than 400 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.