Commentary: Should we have quotas for women on boards in Canada?

by Catherine Wade (Northern Miner – June 5, 2015)

“It’s no secret that the mining industry is behind the curve when it comes to hiring women and appointing female board members. What will it take to get them onboard? Although the last couple of years have seen some increase in women representation at senior executive and director positions, the pace of change is glacial.

There are plenty of rationales provided, but none provide a reason why the typical important factors of improvement to financial, social and general corporate well-being and similar economic considerations are not driving the right decision-making in Canada and in particular in this important sector of the Canadian economy.

But it appears the tide might indeed turn in light of the recent disclosure rules of the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) and the recent federal budget — each announcing “comply or explain” policies requiring companies to implement a gender-diversity policy or publicly explain why they haven’t, as well as the increased industry conversation surrounding the importance of engaging women in mining in order to drive positive change and innovation.

The recent CSA initiative hit this year’s shareholder disclosure for annual general meetings. It requires companies that have shares listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange to comply with, or explain why they don’t comply with, the expectation that women are represented in the identification and selection process for director seats on boards and executive officer appointments, and that they set targets regarding the representation of women in these positions.

The companies are specifically required to: disclose the number of women on their board or in executive positions and the proportion of the total persons in those positions; identify whether the company has adopted a written policy regarding identification and nomination of women directors and if not, why; if the company has adopted a policy, disclose the objectives and key provisions, provide actions specifically taken, progress in achieving the objectives and how the company measures the effectiveness of its policy, if at all.

These requirements are intended to accelerate gender diversity in corporate Canada at the leadership level. A number of studies have indicated that diversity in decision-making, specifically in the boardroom, results in better social performance, better economic results and overall better health for the organizations served. Mining companies need to be put resources into exploring this valuable asset.”

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