Happy International Women’s Day! Here is a good way to start your day. After finding out earlier in the week that it looks like quotas for putting women on boards will soon be officially part of the EU, Canada is taking a different route. In a bold move that could transform the composition of Canada’s corporate boardrooms, Catalyst issues a call to action for Canadian corporations to increase the overall proportion of FP500 board seats held by women to 25% by 2017. Members of the Catalyst Canada Advisory Board will provide participating companies with a roster of board-ready women who they personally sponsor. Catalyst plans to get these women on boards and it is going to do it without quotas.
The Catalyst Accord calls for participating companies to pledge to the objective and submit interim goals to Catalyst, which will be kept confidential. Catalyst is initially supported in this initiative by RBC and Linamar Corporation, who have signed the Catalyst Accord. “Increasing women on boards is good for business—simply put, it’s the smart thing to do,” said RBC President and CEO Gord Nixon. “RBC has five women on its board and I’ve seen firsthand how their skills, experiences, and perspectives enhance boardroom discussion, deliberation, and ultimately business results. We’ve seen how focus and a shared commitment to recruiting women with the right skills can drive positive change.” According to a recent study by Catalyst and The Harvard Business School, having more women in power positions at companies may not only help financial performance but can equal big sustainable wins for the company as well as society.
In December, The Globe and Mail reported that Canada’s Institute of Corporate Directors had rejected the idea of mandating quotas to get more women on corporate boards. ICD CEO Stan Magidson said in an interview that many directors disagreed with quotas because they wanted to be chosen for a board on merit, not to comply with a regulation. “Highly qualified individuals said, ‘We don’t want to go on a board as a token gesture. We want to be there because it’s meritorious.’ That was a common element of feedback we got.”
The Catalyst Accord was created in response to the 2011 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors, just released, which shows that the proportion of women on Canadian boards rose only half a percentage point between 2009 and 2011. Women currently hold just 14.5% of board seats in FP500 companies, and 10.3% in public companies, the report revealed. Additionally, nearly 40% of FP500 companies and over 46 percent of public FP500 companies have zero women serving on their boards. “The Catalyst Accord is more than a call to action—it closes the loop. At its core, it shows a highly focused commitment to increasing board diversity on the part of corporate Canada and it provides the tools to create that change,” said Deborah Gillis, Senior Vice President, Membership & Global Operations, Catalyst. “Not only can corporate Canada address this challenge, as other countries have done, but it can also demonstrate how much it prizes diversity—and smart business practices—by exercising leadership on this issue.”
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