Founder, The Jeffery Group Limited
Women's Executive Network and Canadian Board Diversity Council
Hello and welcome to the new online home of the Canadian Board Diversity Council.
A lot has happened since I launched the Council back in November 2009. The Council has become the leading organization in Canada advancing board diversity. The Council supports a definition of diversity in respect of boards that expands the traditional definition of industry experience, management experience, educational background, functional area of expertise, geography and age to also include such considerations as ethnicity, gender, and Aboriginal status.
The Council does not support quotas. Our Call to Action to boards and shareholders is i) appoint at least one diverse director for every three directors retiring and ii) consider three diverse candidates when identifying each new potential director and iii) identify and sponsor board-ready diverse candidates.
Diversity and inclusivity are increasingly part of the national discourse now. Still, systemic change requires more than talk. We need to shake up the status quo by broadening the talent pool of potential director candidates. To this point, directors have typically been selected from a very tight network of white male CEOs. The Council is working to change the way directors are recruited so that they better reflect the markets they serve. Business as usual simply isn’t good enough in this hyper-competitive, global economy. In order to help create more diverse and, by definition, more effective boards, the Council is taking a three pronged approach: research, education and advocacy.
In 2010, we published the first-ever Annual Report Card providing the first baseline of corporate board diversity in Canada based on a survey of FP500 directors. Those findings revealed that the majority of respondents did not have a written diversity policy nor did they feel the need to adopt one. The same was true of our follow-up survey in 2011—even though a growing number of respondents felt that diversity was important. In the fall of 2012, we released our third Annual Report Card which showed that Canadian women are gaining greater representation at the boardroom table of Canada’s largest companies, but the modest increase is occurring at a glacial pace.
In order to change those statistics, the Council launched the Get on Board governance education program across the country to provide affordable governance education programming including practical tools to male and female managers and executives from diverse backgrounds. In its first two years, the program has already attracted some 450 participants.
The Council has also reached out to leaders via 19 Board Diversity Best Practices Roundtables with corporate directors from coast to coast to give them a forum to learn from their peers about board diversity best practices including recruiting. 13 more Roundtables will be scheduled in 2013. We also created the Board Diversity Tool Kit and provided this to directors from Canada’s largest publicly-traded companies and public sector organizations who attended the Roundtables.
Change requires strong leadership. Going forward the Canadian Board Diversity Council will continue to communicate the message that a diverse board brings the value of a wide range of perspectives, skills and experiences to Canada’s organizations. And we will continue to make sure that diverse talent is board ready and easy to find. Promoting diversity is not just the right thing to do, it’s absolutely necessary in order to ensure Canada’s competitiveness on the global stage.