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Study Finds Women Scarce in Canadian Corporate Boardrooms

Catalyst Benchmark Provides Measure of Women's Place in Canadian Corporate Governance

Women hold just 6.2 percent of the board seats on the companies of the 1998 Financial Post 500—257 out of 4,154 total seats—according to the Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of Canada, released today by Catalyst at a press conference at the Royal York Hotel. When the boards of each of the top 20 crown corporations, financial institutions, and insurance companies are included, the proportion of women increases to 7.5 percent-372 of 4,950 total seats. Of Canada's most influential companies, Catalyst finds that less than half—234 of 560 companies or 41.7 percent—have any women board members. Of these, 94 companies (16.8 percent) have multiple women on their boards.

Catalyst also finds a link between the presence of women on boards and ranking on the Financial Post 500: the top 100 companies by revenue are three times more likely to have at least one woman on their boards (63 compared to 21 companies), and almost four times more likely to have multiple women on their boards (22 compared to six companies), than companies in the fifth quintile of the rankings. "Catalyst counts women directors because in business, what gets measured gets done," said Catalyst President Sheila Wellington at the event. "The Catalyst Census marks the broadest examination of women's board leadership ever undertaken in Canada. It highlights the need for more women on corporate boards, and provides a solid benchmark against which future progress can be gauged."

The overall numbers in Canada compare unfavorably to the U.S., where Catalyst's sixth annual Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500 found that women hold 11.1 percent of board seats. Eighty-six percent of Fortune 500 companies have women board members, and 38 percent have multiple women on their boards.

Following the press conference, a distinguished panel of women board directors, including Maureen Kempston Darkes, President and General Manager of General Motors of Canada, Guylaine Saucier, Chair of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Jalynn Bennett, President of Jalynn Bennett and Associates, discussed the issue of women in corporate governance in front of a packed audience of high-level women executives and board members. "Canadian companies increasingly serve diverse customer bases and employ diverse groups of employees. CEOs should therefore work hard to ensure a full range of perspectives is also available at the most senior levels of their organizations," said Kempston Darkes during the discussion. "I am proud we have made real progress in ensuring that the voice of women is heard at our boardroom table." Of thirteen directors at GM Canada, four are women.

Despite the low numbers reported by the Census, there are some encouraging signs. Occupational positions of women and men directors are almost identical: the vast majority—62.5 percent of women and 65.9 percent of men—are presently employed in the corporate sector. "Catalyst consistently hears from chief executives that they are looking for board candidates with significant corporate experience. This finding helps to dispel the assumption that women directors cannot contribute the same bottom-line experience to boards as men," Wellington added. Catalyst also finds that certain industries stand out, with high levels of women's representation—for example: broadcasting and cable (12.3 percent), information technology (12.2 percent), and financial institutions (12.1 percent). Crown corporations have almost four times the national average proportion of women-held board seats, at 21.4 percent—it is a result of the strong showing of crown corporations and financial institutions that the average percentage of seats held by women increases from 6.2 percent to 7.5 percent when they are included.

The luncheon and panel discussion, entitled "A Seat at The Table: Women in Canadian Boardrooms," was co-sponsored by Catalyst and The Conference Board of Canada—the second time the two organizations have partnered. The two released a joint study, Closing the Gap: Women's Advancement in Corporate and Professional Canada, in December 1997. That study examined the perspectives of senior Canadian women and male chief executives on what it takes for women to advance in business, and what holds them back.

Catalyst is the nonprofit research and advisory organization that works with business to advance women. Since 1977, Catalyst Corporate Board Placement has worked with over 200 leading corporations to recruit women for their boards of directors. The Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of Canada analyzes the boards of each company in the Financial Post 500. In order for the Census to fully represent all sectors of the Canadian economy, Catalyst also looked at the Financial Post top 20 crown, top 20 financial, and top 20 life insurance companies. Information gathered from public sources (annual reports and information on file with the government) was verified by 98 percent of the 560 total companies in the study. The Census provides the number and names of women board members as of the cut-off date of March 31, 1998, indexed by rank, industry, and region, and also provides cross-national analyses. When a corporation has no women directors, the word "none" appears.

Support for this Census was generously provided by Bank of Montreal, Bell Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Deloitte & Touche, General Motors of Canada, NORTEL, and The Toronto-Dominion Bank. The research was undertaken in conjunction with Professor Ron Burke at the Schulich School of Business, York University.

For more information about Catalyst, call Debbie Zarlin in the media department: 212-514-7600, ext. 305.