Women on Alberta boards on the rise

A report from the University of Calgary and Alberta Securities Commission shows the number of women on boards in that province is on the rise, but the oil patch has a long way to go compared to other sectors.

Number of women on boards by industry Last week, the Haskayne School of Business and the ASC announced the results of the first Alberta Women on Boards Index. The study is intended to provide greater visibility into the gender makeup of the boards of directors of publicly traded TSX and TSX-Venture Alberta companies for which Alberta is the principal regulator.

The study found:

• 22 per cent of all new board directors of TSX-listed Alberta issuers appointed in 2015 are women.

• Women hold nine per cent of all TSX-listed board positions of Alberta issuers, up from eight per cent in 2014. The number of TSXV-listed board positions held by women remained steady at four per cent year over year.

• Women hold 20.3 per cent of all board positions of Alberta issuers in the TSX/S&P 60 Index, in line with the average number of women on boards for the entire TSX/S&P 60 Index (20.8 per cent) according to Catalyst’s most recent survey.

• Of all companies surveyed, 29 per cent have one woman or more on the board of directors, while only three per cent have three or more women on their board. That is up over last year when 25 per cent of all companies surveyed had one woman or more on their board of directors; two per cent had three or more.

However, according to statistics released by the Canadian Securities Administrators Monday — in “Staff Review of Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions” — mining, along with oil and gas and technology industries had the most issuers with no women on their board of directors, at 60 per cent or more in each sector.

About half of all issuers in the biotechnology, mining, oil and gas, and technology sectors do not have any female executive officers.

Utilities and retail sectors had the most women on their boards with 57 per cent and 43 per cent of issuers respectively, having two or more female directors. They also had the fewest boards with no women on them.

While the numbers in Alberta appear to be increasing, the province is one of three, along with British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, that did not agree to the Canadian Security Administrators’ guidance issued last December regarding women on boards.

Securities regulators in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan did adopt the rules requiring companies to disclose, on an annual basis, information on policies relating to the identification and nomination of women directors, targets for women on boards and in executive officer positions as well as the number and percentage of women on the issuer’s board of directors and in executive officer positions.

Absent this kind of direction, governance expert Richard Leblanc says the change won’t just happen organically.

“What the oil patch should do is endorse the need for measureable objectives for women on boards, and develop a talent pool for women early on in their executive careers to identify and nurture high potential board talent,” says Richard Leblanc, an associate professor in law, governance, and ethics at York University.

Leblanc says regulators want to see progress on increasing the number of women on boards within three years and with one year down, “the clock is ticking.”

“Regulators are clearly seized with enhancing women on boards, in dozens of countries. They have shown they will act. I predict they will act further in Canada if the directorial community does not does not make adequate progress,” he says.

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