Number of women in board and executive positions on the rise in Canada

Review outlines key trends on gender diversity disclosure by non-venture issuers.

Participating Canadian securities regulatory authorities published the results of their ninth annual review of disclosures relating to women on boards and in executive officer positions, as well as the underlying data that was used to prepare the report.

The report – CSA Multilateral Staff Notice 58-316 – Review of Disclosure Regarding Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions, summarizes the corporate governance disclosures of 602 non-venture issuers and has been published by securities regulatory authorities in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.

Highlights from the report

This ninth diversity review completed by the CSA reveals continued gradual improvement in the proportion of women on boards and in executive officer positions among such issuers.

  • 27% of board seats are held by women, an increase of 3% since last year (11% in 2015).
  • The percentage of board vacancies filled by women decreased by 2% – from 45% to 43% this year. Though the trajectory has been rising, in 2017 the figure was just 26%.
  • 89% of issuers have at least one woman on their board, an increase of 2% since last year. A significant hike when comparing to 49% in 2015.
  • 36% of issuers have at least three women on their board, an increase of 6% since last year.
  • 8% of issuers have a woman chairing their board, up 1% from last year.

“I’m pleased that we’re seeing some progress with respect to the representation of women on boards and in executive officer positions,” said Stan Magidson, CSA Chair and Chair and CEO of the Alberta Securities Commission. “We have heard that investors value diversity in governance and disclosure supports informed investment decisions.”

Report data

The underlying data used to prepare the review was compiled from public documents filed on SEDAR+ and includes the name, industry and year-end of the 602 non-venture issuers who were included in the review sample. These issuers had year-ends between December 31, 2022 and March 31, 2023, and filed information circulars or annual information forms by July 31, 2023.

Data for additional issuers that were not included in past review samples has also been published:

For the balance of 2022, the 122 non-venture issuers that either (i) had year ends between December 31, 2021 and March 31, 2022 and filed information circulars or annual information forms after July 31, 2022, or (ii) had year ends between April 1, 2022 and December 30, 2022.

These underlying data files have been published by Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Québec and Saskatchewan.

CSA Multilateral Staff Notice 58-316 Review of Disclosure Regarding Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions (Year 9 Report) and the underlying data can be found on CSA member websites.

Future of gender diversity in Canada

Canadian securities regulators have not yet imposed any requirements to achieve a minimum level of female representation on an issuer’s board of directors or in executive officer positions. 

However, in related work, the CSA is currently reviewing stakeholder comments on proposed amendments to the corporate governance disclosure requirements and policy relating to the director nomination process, board renewal and diversity that were published on April 13, 2023 and the comment period closed on September 29, 2023. The CSA Notice and Request for Comment and the comment letters received can be found on CSA members’ websites. If this is implemented, it would expand diversity disclosure requirements for non-venture issuers and provide guidance for all issuers in respect of a written diversity policy and setting diversity objectives.

The CSA, the council of the securities regulators of Canada’s provinces and territories, co-ordinates and harmonizes regulation for the Canadian capital markets.