VictoriaBar / iStockphoto.com

Women now account for more than one-quarter of corporate board seats, but female representation in the executive suite remains stagnant.

According to data from the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), women comprise 27% of corporate board seats, up from 24% last year and from 11% when the regulators began tracking this data nine years ago.

More issuers had three or more women on their boards, with the proportion rising to 36% from 30% last year — and from 8% when the reviews first began. As well, 8% of the 602 public companies reviewed had a woman chairing its board, up from 7% last year.

However, the proportion of women CEOs in the CSA’s sample remains 5%, as it has in the past three annual reports. The percentage of companies with at least one woman in an executive officer position ticked up only one point to 71% from 70% last year.

The proportion of board vacancies filled by women fell to 43% this year from 45% last year.

Within the financial services industry, 79% of companies had one or more women in an executive officer position, placing the industry fifth-highest among the nine considered. The retail, real estate, utilities and manufacturing industries had the highest percentages.

Eighty-eight percent of financial services companies had one or more women on their boards, placing the industry seventh. The manufacturing, retail and utilities industries had the highest percentages.

“I’m pleased that we’re seeing some progress with respect to the representation of women on boards and in executive officer positions,” said Stan Magidson, chair of the CSA, and chair and CEO of the Alberta Securities Commission, in a statement. “We have heard that investors value diversity in governance, and disclosure supports informed investment decisions.”

The results are based on a review of disclosures from 602 non-venture issuers, which represents the majority of 744 issuers that are subject to regulatory disclosure requirements in this area. All issuers had year-ends between Dec. 31, 2022, and March 31, 2023.

In April the CSA proposed changes to corporate governance requirements, publishing two approaches for expanding diversity disclosures beyond gender.

One approach, which is favoured by the Ontario Securities Commission, would require issuers to report on the representation of five groups (including women) on their boards and in executive positions.

The securities regulators for Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories favoured requirements that would require companies to disclose their approaches to diversity without mandating disclosure on specific groups.

The remaining eight CSA members, including Quebec’s Autorité des marchés financiers, declined to pick a side. A public consultation on this issue closed Sept. 29.