Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Still no women in the boardroom...

Women make up 51% of Canada’s population but hold only a meagre 15 % of Board seats on corporations in the FP500.

SHARE, which helps coordinate the filing of resolutions and proxy voting in the socially responsible investment community, maintains a database of shareholder resolutions. In 2008 MEDAC filed a resolution with each of the major banks asking for gender parity on the Board of Directors. The resolution didn’t fare too well, with results ranging from a low of 3.29% at Bank of Nova Scotia to 7.12% at Royal Bank. Some SRI fund companies voted against the resolution raising semantic issues about the word ‘quotas.’ MEDAC has filed a similar resolution again this year asking that half of director nominees be women until a parity of men and women is reached on the Board. Hopefully this rewording has made the resolution palatable to more shareholders.

2007 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the FP500 states clearly “Census interviewees said that enhancing gender diversity at the board level raises the quality of discussion around the table. This has the potential to yield real improvements in the overall quality of governance which, in turn, will be reflected in company performance. Greater gender diversity on boards also serves to constructively raise the level of stakeholder representation within companies, since many of their customers and clients are female.” Let alone the staff - at Canadian banks almost ¾ of employees are women!

Gary Hawton, CEO of
Meritas Mutual Funds says that although they did not support the resolution last year, this year they will be voting in favour of it. He also promised me that he will be meeting with the CEO of a major Canadian bank soon and “when he and I sit down to chat I will talk to him about gender representation on the Board.”

C’mon guys (and you are all men), somebody take the lead here - get together for a cause we agree on and come up with a resolution that will push banks to work harder to recruit women board members.

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