Government of Canada taking action to increase participation of women on corporate boards

Jun 26, 2014, 10:30 ET from Status of Women Canada

Minister Leitch releases report by federal Advisory Council for women on boards

TORONTO, June 26, 2014 /CNW/ - The Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, along with members of the federal Advisory Council for women on boards, today released the Council's report on ways to increase the representation of women on public and private boards in Canada.

The Report entitled "Good for Business: A Plan to Promote More Women on Canadian Boards" outlines a roadmap for improving the representation of women on public and private boards that will also build a stronger economy. A key element of the Report is a number of 'best practices' in use within corporate Canada to successfully advance more women into board positions.

Minister Leitch highlighted that it is not about quotas, but rather setting goals that Canada can aspire to as a country. By creating leadership opportunities for women in corporate Canada, the performance of Canadian companies in the global economy will be strengthened.

One of the main recommendations by the Advisory Council is that public and private sectors in Canada aspire to seeing women attain 30% of all board positions over the next five years. The Minister noted that the federal government had already achieved this goal with women holding 31% of all Governor-in-Council (GIC) positions. However, the Minister recognizes that this leadership must continue and strive for even higher representation at the federal level so that further progress occurs.

The Government of Canada has made it a priority to increase opportunities for Canadian women in Canada's economy, from skilled trades to corporate boards. The release of today's report is part of a growing record of actions by the federal government to secure greater economic security and prosperity for women in Canada.

Quick Facts

  • Women represent nearly half the Canadian workforce, yet only 15.9% of corporate board positions at FP500 companies are held by women in Canada today. Nearly 40% of FP500 companies and close to half of publicly traded companies have no women on their boards.
  • A report by the Conference Board of Canada has shown that increasing the number of women on company boards can lead to more effective business decision-making and improve corporate performance.
  • The federal government announced in Economic Action Plan 2012 an Advisory Council of business leaders to make recommendations on ways in which Canada can increase the participation of women on corporate boards.


"Our Government believes that increasing opportunities for women to serve on corporate boards makes good business sense for Canadian women and for Canada's economy. The report we are releasing today will help guide our actions in the public and private sectors to ensure more women advance to positions of leadership across our country."

The Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch
Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women

"I am delighted to join with public and private sector leaders today in launching this new report promoting women on boards. It represents a real call to action for Canadian business to renew its focus on increasing the representation of women at senior levels, particularly on boards of directors."

Alex Johnston
Executive Director
Catalyst Canada

"We are pleased to co-host the launch of this important report. As a company that has supported the leadership of women on our Board and Executive, we know firsthand how increasing leadership opportunities for Canadian women benefits our company and the Canadian economy."

Micheal Cooper
President and CEO
Dream Unlimited Corp.

"We welcome the opportunity to join in the launch of this report. It allows us to send a dramatic signal throughout our economy that Canada has a growing pool of talented professional women ready for advancement into senior leadership positions across all sectors of the economy."

Jennifer Reynolds
President and CEO
Women in Capital Markets

Additional Links



Summary of Recommendations

The following summary of recommendations is influenced by best practices, from across Canada and internationally, and informed by the experience and expertise of the Advisory Council for Promoting Women on Boards members. Based on these factors, the Council is offering the following recommendations for the Government of Canada.

1. Aspire to 30% over five years (2014-2019) as a reasonable national goal to achieve gender balance, with the longer term goal being gender balance on boards.

2. The Advisory Council encourages the Government of Canada to:

  • Build on past progress and work towards greater gender balance in its own appointments;
  • Monitor and report on gender diversity in Governor-in-Council (GIC) appointments;
  • Simplify and promote the GIC process;
  • Ensure greater participation in the recruitment of women to leadership positions and GIC appointments by working with Government agencies, including the leadership of Crown Corporations; and
  • Promote networking and mentoring between public and private sector corporations.

3. Institute a "comply or explain" approach for moving publicly traded companies toward an identified goal within published annual reports, with an explanation of results or lack thereof.

4. Promote increased representation of women on boards by mobilizing and working with key stakeholders, including prominent Chairs, Financial Post (FP) 500 companies, national business associations, shareholder groups and advocacy organizations. It would be advantageous and critical to work towards:

  • Adopting a strong commitment, sound implementation strategies and reporting mechanisms, while maintaining flexible approaches;
  • Making gender balance on boards a priority to be advanced by board governance through policies, human resources, and board recruitment and nomination committees; and
  • Encouraging nomination and recruitment committees and executive search firms to ensure that equal numbers of qualified women and men candidates are presented for consideration for board vacancies. 

5. Develop a coordinated pan-Canadian approach by working with provincial and territorial governments.

6. Support the adoption of short- and medium-term goals in the private and public sectors, recognizing that some sectors are further ahead than others.

7. Publicly traded companies should establish and publish, through annual financial statements, two- and five-year goals within the context of a board renewal plan.

8. Publicly traded companies should report and explain annual results against their goals, reinforced as required by regulatory authorities, as part of their transparency responsibilities, and by departments through their business-related initiatives. 

9. Launch a national initiative led by the Government of Canada, to encourage the private sector to attain gender-balanced boards.

10. Develop a sustained and deliberate communications strategy to mobilize all relevant stakeholders.

11. Encourage private companies to emulate publicly traded companies and undertake similar measures to increase representation of women on boards.


SOURCE Status of Women Canada