Canadian mining industry urged to bring more women on board of directors

Published: 19/06/2015

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Damon van der Linde | May 12, 2015 4:38 PM ET
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Canada’s mining industry is far behind other sectors when it comes to gender equality.
Supplied by SmallCapPowerCanada’s mining industry is far behind other sectors when it comes to gender equality.
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MONTREAL – Canada’s mining industry lags behind most sectors when it comes to gender equality on its boards of directors, and some are calling to bring more women to the table both for the sake of diversity and success of the companies.

“A good combination of men and women will challenge the status quo. It’s a matter of moving ahead and being innovative,” Lamelee Iron Ore board member and partner at the Dentons law firm Montreal office, Carole Turcotte, said Monday, ahead of a panel discussion at the Canadian Institute of Mining Convention.

“Sometimes women can approach a problem in a different way than men,” she said in an interview. “It brings a different perspective.”

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Turcotte joined the Lamelee board at the beginning of 2015 amid a plunge in iron ore prices that has seen them slide past less than half their 2014 value.


“It’s a difficult market because of the price of the commodity. They are certainly doing the right thing by having women on their board and moving things along,” she said.

In its 2015 budget, the federal government instituted a “comply or explain” policy, forcing Canadian non-venture issuers to include more diversity on their boards, or disclose the reasons for the gender imbalance publicly. Seven out of 10 provinces and two of three territories have also adopted their own policies for publicly traded companies within their jurisdiction.

Only British Columbia, Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Yukon have not.

“Some companies say they are very comfortable with the way things are and they intend to keep it the same way,” said Turcotte.

“When an investor sees diversity in the company and the company is doing better, they might force some changes. Eventually investors and shareholders are going to ask for it.”

There could be good reason for shareholders to demand more women on mining boards.

A study by Woman in Mining released in February shows companies with more women board members, on average, outperform those with fewer women by 53 per cent on return on investment, 42 per cent on return on sales, and 66 per cent of return on invested capital.

Canada is making improvements when it comes to bringing more women on boards.

The Top 100 listed mining companies have almost tripled the number from five per cent in 2012 to 15 per cent in 2014.

“I think companies are going to head that way because of social pressure and because they know in the end it’s right and it’s the right decision to make,” said Turcotte.

Among the Top 500 listed companies, however, only 10 percent have women, and experts say it will take 25 years at the current rate of change to reach the 30 per cent threshold found to have the maximum positive effect on company performance.

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“I don’t think it’s going to go up leaps and bounds,” said Tabetha Stirrett, Business Development Manager at North Rim Exploration and President of Women in Mining’s Canadian branch, which is developing a National Action Plan to bring – and keep – women in both the operation and executive level of the sector. “There just aren’t enough women in those positions.

“Right now, that pipeline to get women into that position where they are able to contribute at a board level is slow.”