Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Gentle push' urged for lingering lack of women on corporate boards

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TORONTO -- Women are still vastly underrepresented in Canada's corporate boardrooms, and the only way for that to change is to give the country's top companies a "gentle push" in the right direction, says a new report.

The TD Economics report, titled Get on Board Corporate Canada, says Canada is lagging behind other industrialized countries such as Norway, Finland and Sweden when it comes to the number of women acting as directors for large, publicly listed companies.

The study found women only make up 11 per cent of board members for firms on the S&P/TSX Composite Index, which represents more than 240 of Canada's largest companies by market capitalization.

Meanwhile, nearly half (43 per cent) of the companies on the index reported no female board member, and 28 per cent only have one.

Beata Caranci, deputy chief economist for TD Bank and author of the report, says the numbers don't add up.

"You're trying to get companies to consider the best possible candidate and statistically it does not make sense that we have such a low representation of women on boards considering their skill levels, their engagement in the workforce, their level of education," she said.

Nevertheless, the report warned against slapping hard quotas on companies to get more women into these high-profile positions.

"There is some sort of market failure so you need some bit of policy push, but the quotas may not achieve what you're trying to do," said Caranci.

"It may in numbers alone, but not in terms of spirit of the law."

She added putting in place affirmative-action policies runs the risk of undermining the work and experience of women who are already working in the corporate world.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2013 B5

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