That challenge looks for gender parity on Canadian boards and senior management of 50 per cent and 30 per cent representation on Canadian boards and senior management of other under-represented groups. The latter includes racialized persons, people living with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ2 community, Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
Jennifer Jeffrey, an associate with Osler, says she believes companies “should really strive” to deal with any impediments in advancing women and other underrepresented groups on corporate boards and senior management. “It’s just good for companies, from many perspectives, but perhaps one of the more important ones is changing the internal corporate culture of organizations,” she says. “It should be top of mind when it comes to developing corporate governance policies.”
Jeffrey says she has a particular interest in research in this area, having spent time at the Ontario Securities Commission involved in studying these corporate governance disclosure rules. While the disclosure rules will help “move the dial,” especially with more institutional investors weighing in on the topic, it may become necessary to implement some quota system if a change is to come more quickly.
She adds that it’s not a matter of bad faith. Indeed, companies are turning their minds far more often to the issue of board diversity. However, it is perhaps a matter of removing the blinders, which would allow companies to look beyond their regular Rolodex of contacts. It is also a matter of providing more “gender intelligence and unconscious bias” training. Also, looking to outside recruiters to find candidates for board seats and senior positions is another strategy that could be very helpful.
MacDougall agrees, adding that quotas and mandates do not mean that the quality of board members decreases. Looking beyond what a corporate board member “is supposed to be” opens up the possibility to make it even stronger.