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Public Company Board See Few Visible Minorities, Indigenous People or people with Disabilities

Few visible minorities, and Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities largely absent from public company boards, but women continue their slow advance

TORONTO, Oct. 5, 2020-PRESS RELEASE-  – Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s sixth annual report on diversity disclosure practices of TSX-listed companies and Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) corporations shows continued but slow progress in increasing the proportion of women on boards, no progress made for women at the executive officer level, few visible minority directors and a noticeable lack of directors who are Aboriginal peoples or persons with disabilities.

“Continuing the trend that we’ve seen over the past several years, regulators are increasing their focus on improving diversity in senior leadership roles on the board and at the executive officer level across corporate Canada,” said Andrew MacDougall, leader of Osler’s Corporate Governance Practice. “This year, new disclosure requirements under the CBCA not only broadened the range of companies required to provide disclosure of women in leadership positions, but also added new facets of diversity, including new requirements for disclosure regarding visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities. Expansion of diversity and inclusion initiatives to other underrepresented groups will have a sustainable impact and fuel change in the years ahead.”

This year, there was also an increase in the number of TSX-listed companies with written board policies and a significant increase in companies disclosing that their board policy also considers other diversity characteristics, including ethnicity and race. The report also found that there was a slight decline in the rate at which women were being appointed to fill newly created or vacated board seats. As in previous years, Canada’s largest companies continue to lead the way with respect to women on their boards.

“Overall, the report shows mixed results for diversity in corporate Canada,” said John Valley, a partner in Osler’s Corporate Governance Group and co-author of the report. “We saw slow growth in the advancement of women on boards at TSX-listed companies, but the proportion of women executive officers has remained largely unchanged over the past six years. Consistent with this, we found a decreasing number of all-male boards and a significant increase in companies adopting their own written board diversity policies. Our review of the first year of disclosure under the new CBCA requirements shows little representation among directors from the other designated groups described in those requirements, but particularly given recent social, legal and political trends, we are hopeful that next year’s report will show meaningful change on this front.”

Some highlights of this year’s Osler report include:

  • Women now hold 21.5% of all board seats among all TSX-listed companies disclosing the number of women directors on their boards
  • At S&P/TSX 60 companies, women hold 31.5% of all board seats
  • 64.7% of disclosing TSX-listed companies have written board diversity policies
  • 47.6% of disclosing TSX-listed companies have more than one woman director
  • Targets for women directors have been adopted by 58.5% of disclosing S&P/TSX 60 companies, but by only 28.9% of disclosing TSX-listed companies overall
  • 5% of a disclosing TSX-listed companies have a woman as the board chair
  • At 26 companies (4.4% of disclosing TSX-listed companies) the CEO is a woman
  • The percentage of CBCA public company board seats held by visible minorities is 5.5% based on 217 CBCA companies disclosing the number of visible minority directors
  • Out of 270 CBCA public companies providing disclosure, the number of board positions held by Aboriginal peoples is seven and the number of board positions held by persons with disabilities is six
  • Of 230 CBCA public companies providing disclosure, almost none disclosed having targets for designated groups (other than women): visible minorities – 1; Aboriginal peoples – 1; persons with disabilities – 0; and for all designated groups (other than women) collectively – 2

The report was compiled by Osler’s Corporate Governance Practice Group and involved an extensive review and analysis of diversity disclosure by CBCA companies and all TSX-listed companies required to comply with the diversity disclosure requirements under applicable securities laws through to July 31, 2020. The full report is available for download.

About Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Osler is a leading law firm with a singular focus – your business.  From Toronto, Montréal, Calgary, Ottawa, Vancouver and New York, we advise our Canadian, U.S. and international clients on an array of domestic and cross-border legal issues. Our one-firm collaborative approach draws on the expertise of over 400 lawyers to provide practical legal solutions driven by your business needs. It’s law that works.


SOURCE Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP – Toronto

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