Board diversity is improving, but still has a long way to go

By Maddie Johnson | October 13, 2022 | Last updated on October 13, 2022
2 min read

While significant progress is being made in adding diversity on boards for women, the results for visible minorities, Indigenous people and those with physical disabilities are less encouraging, finds a recent report from Toronto-based Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.

The report, 2022 Diversity Disclosure Practices, examines the leadership practices at Canadian public companies. To collect data, Osler leveraged new disclosure requirements under the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) — which focuses on women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities — as well as rules from securities regulators that have required greater governance transparency since 2015.

According to the report, as of mid-2022, more than one in every four directors across all TSX-listed companies is female, as women now hold 26% of the board seats. This represents an increase of 2.6 percentage points from mid-year 2021.

Canada’s larger companies led the way, with women holding one-third (32.9%) of all board seats among the S&P/TSX Composite Index, and among the S&P/TSX 60 companies, women hold 36% of all board seats.

What’s more, single gender boards have become a thing of the past. For the first time, the report revealed that there are no all-male boards among the S&P/TSX Composite Index companies, and none of the S&P/TSX 60 companies have fewer than two female directors. 

Across all TSX-listed companies, only 11.6% of boards have no women directors, down from 47.1% in 2015 and 16% in 2021, the report said. 

Progress has been made for women at the executive officer level as well, the report said, given that one in every five executive officers (19.8%) is a woman, up from 18.2% in 2021.

Further, the percentage of companies reporting that they had no women executive officers decreased to 28.6% from 32.9% in 2021. Of these companies, the percentage that reported having only one woman executive officer was essentially flat, at 28.8% (compared to 28.3% in 2021), while the percentage that reported having two or more women executive officers increased to 42.6% from 38.8% in 2021.

However, “there remains significant room for improvement” with respect to achieving diversity beyond gender, the report said. 

Across all CBCA corporations, just under 10% of board positions are held by directors who are visible minorities, Indigenous people or persons with a disability.

According to the report, as of mid-2022, the percentage of CBCA public company board seats held by visible minorities is 8.3%. The number of CBCA public company board positions held by Indigenous people and persons with disabilities is 17 and 10, respectively. 

“In order to make progress on diversity beyond gender, public company boards will need to change their approach to the identification and appointment of directors from these designated groups,” the report said. 

With respect to other designated groups, full-year results for 2021 show no progress for Indigenous people compared to the prior year and visible minorities, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities remain substantially underrepresented on Canadian boards.

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Maddie Johnson

Maddie is a freelance writer and editor who has been reporting for since 2019.