The introduction of the “comply or explain” disclosure guideline in 2014 has yielded very limited progress over the last three years, as women continue to be under-represented on corporate boards and in executive-level positions, says a release by l’Association des Femmes en Finance du Québec (AFFQ).

The Ontario Securities Commission introduced rules in 2014 requiring firms to disclose the percentage of women on boards and in executive roles. Several other jurisdictions followed.

Progress has been slow: the representation rate inched from 11% to 14% over the last three years. AFFQ also notes that a surprising 40% of Canadian corporate boards have no female representation at all. Given this limited progress, the association estimates it may take upwards of 25 years for companies in Canada to reach gender parity.

The AFFQ recently surveyed its membership to assess support for stronger measures related to increased diversity and representation on boards.

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Here are the results.

  • 78% of members surveyed support mandated minimum quotas of women on boards.
  • 73% support a 40% to 50% ratio of women on boards.
  • 81% would provide a three- to five-year window for compliance.
  • 67% favour financial or other penalties for non-compliance with quotas.

Several international studies show that mandated quotas remain the only effective measure to ensure gender parity on boards, says the AFFQ. France and Norway adopted legislated quotas and women now occupy 40% of publicly-traded corporate board seats in each country, compared to an international average of 15%.

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Studies also validate the proposition that diversified boards and executives lead to improved strategic decisions and, consequently, improved financial performance. A study conducted by the research team on governance diversity at HEC Montréal, and based on 300 companies over a three-year period, concluded that financial performance bettered market expectations by an impressive 6% in companies with a higher proportion of women on their executive teams.

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“It’s now time for truly concrete measures. We need to demand change by sending a united message in order to reach parity,” AFFQ president Dana Ades-Landy said in a release.

The AFFQ is ready to engage its members, the public, as well as other stakeholders to ensure that progress occurs at a much more accelerated pace, and that women are finally proportionally represented at key decision-making levels across corporations, the release said.