From the Regulators

The results of research on Alberta-based issuers reveal that women representation on boards varies greatly depending on a company’s size

By James Langton |

Women hold less than 10% of board seats at issuers based in Alberta, according to new data from the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC) and the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business.

The results of research revealed on Tuesday shows that among Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX)-listed, Alberta-based issuers, women hold just 9% of board positions. However, there's a stark contrast when it comes to company size.

For example, among TSX Venture Exchange issuers, women represent just 4% of directors. However, when looking solely at the largest companies, issuers that belong in the TSX/S&P 60 index, the research finds that 20.3% of directors are women. This last figure is in line with TSX/S&P 60 issuers, generally, according to the latest data from non-profit advocacy group, Catalyst.

Despite the dismal overall results, the trend is at least positive. The research found that 22% of all new board directors of TSX-listed Alberta issuers are women. Although this is still far from representative of the overall population, it's nevertheless more than double the existing proportion of women directors. Also, the overall 9% reading represents an increase from 8% in the previous year. Furthermore, the research found that 29% of companies have at least one woman on the board, up from 25% in 2014.

Loren Falkenberg, Haskayne's associate dean of research and co-chairwoman of the study's advisory committee, says she is pleased to see the trend heading in the right direction. This is expected to continue given that women now represent more than 60% of university graduates.

"We should see the number of women on corporate boards start to really grow," says Falkenberg in a statement.

"Many investors favour the inclusion of diverse perspectives on corporate boards, and we are publishing this data to encourage an informed and beneficial public discussion about the participation of women on boards in Alberta," says Bill Rice, chairman and CEO of the ASC, in a statement.

Last year, several Canadian regulators adopted measures requiring non-venture issuers to disclose the number of women on their boards of directors and in executive officer positions; their policies regarding the representation of women on the board; and their approach toward considering the representation of women in the process for finding directors and executives, among other things. The ASC was not among the regulators adopting these measures.

Next week, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), which has led the effort to enhance transparency regarding the representation of women on boards and in senior management, will be holding a half-day conference to examine the findings of a review of the disclosures from TSX issuers in the wake of the new disclosure rules.

OSC senior accountant, Sandra Heldman will present the results. This will be followed by a discussion moderated by OSC executive director Maureen Jensen. A followup discussion on ways to achieve greater female representation will be moderated by OSC vice chairwoman Monica Kowal and feature Victor Dodig, president and CEO of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce; Alex Johnston, executive director of Catalyst Canada; Katherine Rabin, CEO of Glass, Lewis & Co; Pamela Jeffery, founder of both the Women's Executive Network and the Canadian Board Diversity Council; Fiona Macfarlane, chief inclusiveness officer at Ernst & Young LLP; Aaron Dhir, associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School; and, John Dillon, vice president, policy and corporate counsel, Canadian Council of Chief Executives.