only 32 are women. Currently, boards in Canada do not reflect the
country’s diversity. In 2016, women held 21.6 per cent of FP500
company board seats in the country, and of the 677 companies on
the Toronto Stock Exchange, 45 per cent had zero women.
Unfortunately, adoption levels could be so low for a number of
simple reasons. First, people inherently tend to hire people who
think like they do. Board members are frequently responsible for
picking their own replacements, so they tend to replace with like-minded
and similar individuals. There is tradition, comfort and
existing connections through personal and work history for these
individuals. There’s also a misguided sentiment that qualified
women are hard to find for board seats. Additionally, many boards
may be hesitant to give women their first board seat experience.
Even when qualified women are identified and in the running,
they can lose out if they have no previous board experience, fur-ther
contributing to the cycle. Lastly, people often remain on board
seats for 10 years or more, and diversity wasn’t as much of a focus
for businesses 10 years ago.
I believe companies with women on boards do well because hav-ing
women in the boardroom forces directors to examine different
angles when it comes to problem solving. Boards with women do
better because they examine and analyze problems and solutions
from more than one perspective. Companies that fail are often fail-ing
because they don’t see how the world is evolving. Additionally,
the fact that a company is open to change by having females on the
board suggests that they may be inherently more progressive in
other ways. My personal experience also indicates that the more
diverse the background of a board, the more territory you cover to
ensure you don’t have any blind spots.
With this in mind, here are a few approaches that you can take
if you’re looking to strengthen your board or advance your career,
and that companies can adopt to help make it happen:
1. Business leaders and board members must make a concerted
effort to ensure that women have a fair and equal path to
ascend to positions at the top. This can come in the form
of mentoring programs that connect young professionals
with established professionals in an effort to facilitate
and encourage the younger worker’s growth. Executive
sponsorship is also critical. When it comes time for a woman
to be recommended for a new role or stretch assignment,
executive support can be lacking. Sponsorship should be
an expectation and recognized as an important part of the
organization’s leadership plans. Formal career mapping
with development plans, promotions and networking
opportunities can also lend to a young female professional’s
success. Further, for those boards that do appoint women to
their first board seat, be sure to provide coaching and support
to set her up for success.
2. Know who your customer is and make informed business
decisions based on who is opening their wallet. Women drive
70 to 80 per cent of all consumer purchasing, according to
3. Utilize resources to connect with the most qualified women.
The Institute of Corporate Directors has a database of
qualified female professionals, and the organization offers
additional benefits like training and professional guidance.
Companies can also be ICD members.
4. For professional women, participate actively in professional
associations such as CPA Ontario, Catalyst Canada, Institute
of Corporate Directors and the Canadian Association of
Women. Many industries have their own organizations that
can help you develop your leadership skills such as Executives
and Entrepreneurs and Women in Biz Network. Networking
not only affords you great connections, it helps keep you
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26 ❚ DECEMBER 2017 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL