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Canadian public companies are making progress toward gender equity on their boards of directors, but the CEO’s office remains elusive.

According to data from the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), women now account for almost a quarter (24%) of corporate board seats, up from just 11% when the regulators began tracking this data eight years ago.

This progress toward greater parity comes as women account for a greater share of new board appointments. Female directors filled 45% of board vacancies in the latest review, up from 35% a year ago.

However, women are rarely getting the top jobs. Just 5% of CEOs are female — essentially unchanged from when the regulators began tracking this metric five years ago. And only 7% of board chairs are female, up from 5% four years earlier.

Improvement in the gender balance of boards generally has also been accompanied by a shift in corporate governance policies.

The report noted that 61% of issuers now have a policy regarding the representation of women on their boards, up from just 15% eight years ago, and the share of firms with targets for female representation has grown to 39% from 7% over the same period.

However, only 4% of issuers have adopted targets for women in executive roles, which is actually down from 6% last year, but up from 2% eight years ago.

“The increased representation of women in corporate board rooms and in senior leadership is encouraging, and we’re considering our approach with respect to broader diversity,” said Stan Magidson, chair of the CSA and chair and CEO of the Alberta Securities Commission (ASC), in a release accompanying the data.

The results are based on a review of disclosures from 625 non-venture issuers, which represents the majority of 792 issuers that are subject to regulatory disclosure requirements in this area. All issuers had year-ends between December 31, 2021 and March 31, 2022.