New policy targets equal gender representation
By Dustyn Lanz
Chief Executive Officer of the RIA
Responsible investors have long advocated for greater diversity in corporate leadership. The rationale has been simple: it’s the right thing to do for organizations to have a diversity of perspectives to reflect the markets they serve and to provide advancement opportunities for the full range of skilled people within their organizations.
It also makes good business sense. Research has shown that companies with more women in leadership tend to outperform on a number of financial indicators, including return on equity, return on sales, share price performance, and other metrics. It really makes sense when you think about it: Why wouldn’t an organization want access to half the population’s talent?
Yet despite the strong business and ethical cases for diversity, women remain egregiously underrepresented in corporate leadership in Canada. A recent Osler report found that women currently hold about 16% of board seats at TSX-listed companies, and 66% of boards have one or fewer women. The charts below show the breakdown. There is clearly much work to be done to make corporate Canada more representative of society.
Source: Osler, 2018 Diversity Disclosure Practices
While the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) is not a publicly-traded “for-profit” company, we aim to be part of the solution and to demonstrate leadership on governance and diversity. While women currently hold 42% of seats on the RIA’s board of directors, we are striving to do better. We are, therefore, pleased to announce our new board diversity policy, which was formalized by the RIA board of directors on February 28th, 2019.
The policy strives for equal gender representation on our board over time. While we recognize that women are underrepresented in the financial sector overall, there tends to be stronger gender diversity in the responsible investment community.
I would like to thank the RIA board of directors for making this policy happen, and I would like to extend a special thanks to our governance policy committee for putting in extra hours to draft, revise and develop the policy over the past few months. Those committee members are Lisa Becker (University of Toronto Asset Management), Edgar Hielema (Gardiner Roberts), Milla Craig (Millani) and Ian Robertson (Odlum Brown).
As noted above, much work remains to be done to achieve a gender balance in corporate leadership. But on this International Women’s Day, we hope our policy can encourage others to join the pursuit of more diverse and representative boards in Canada.
Read the full board diversity policy here: