Women in business

There’s still a long way to go, but there’s been significant improvement when it comes to women’s representation in Canadian boardrooms, says DBRS Ltd.

In a new report, the rating agency found that among a sample of 175 public companies, women now hold about 30% of board seats, up from just 9% in 2010.

“Since 2010, many corporations, mainly publicly listed companies, have made progress in creating a more inclusive workforce, with special attention to ensuring board diversity,” the report said.

Maria-Gabriella Khoury, senior vice-president, global financial institutions group at DBRS, said it’s “undeniable that a big step has been made in women’s representation on boards.”

“When it was once considered somewhat normal to have all-male directors, by 2020 it had become very rare for companies to not include any female directors,” she said in a release.

At the same time, the report acknowledged there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

For instance, it found that just 10% of boards are chaired by women. While this is up from 4% in 2010, women are still a long way from parity in the chair’s office.

“DBRS Morningstar acknowledges that while it may still take years to achieve gender parity on corporate boards beyond the current 30%, the data shows a favourable trend over the last decade,” Khoury said.

This progress has come with the help of disclosure obligations on public companies. Canadian policymakers haven’t taken more forceful steps, such as mandating targets, to encourage greater female representation.

Nevertheless, the rating agency expects to see continued improvement in the years ahead, as both regulators and institutional investors push for more transparency and action on gender equity.

Further progress on diversity “should ultimately lead to stronger corporate governance outcomes,” it said.