- Get Involved
- Connect with Leaders
- Leadership Stories
- Research and Tools
By Pamela Jeffery, Founder, Canadian Board Diversity Council
Inclusivity is good for business.
Yet somehow, even though Canada enjoys an incredibly diverse, multicultural talent pool of men and women, nominating committees continue to seek out the usual choice: Caucasian men. The opportunity cost of maintaining the status quo instead of seeking out the best and brightest in a much larger talent pool is simply too great. And so, in 2012, the federal government is trying to nudge corporate Canada into changing the makeup of its boardrooms.
Corporate Canada is beginning to understand that diverse boards are good for business.
Yet, a disconnect exists
While research shows that everybody wins when there are more perspectives around the table, corporate Canada has been slow to come around. Consider the numbers: back in 2010, CBDC conducted a survey of FP500 directors to get a baseline representation of women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal peoples. Visible minorities held only 5.3% of Financial Post 500 board seats. At that time, 68% of directors stated their board did not have a written diversity policy. 16% had one. Among directors that did not have a diversity policy, 66% felt the board should not develop/adopt a formal diversity policy. Only 21% said the board should do so. At the same time, 62% of directors said “yes” when asked if they felt their board was diverse.
This disconnect was startling.
Unfortunately, little has changed. The findings in our follow-up 2011 Report Card reveal more of the same. While 35% of corporate board members stated that diversity was important from their board’s perspective, only 22% had a written diversity policy, while 59% did not. Of those companies that did not have a formal diversity policy, 59% reported they did not feel the need to adopt one. Only 22% said they should develop a diversity policy. And yet, this time even more, 73% of respondents, said their board was diverse.
It’s time to disrupt the status quo
With a large number of directors retiring over the next five years, now is the time for action. In order to speed up the process, the Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC) has launched Diversity 50, Canada’s first-ever national database of women and visible minority candidates. Our goal is to uncover what has been, at least in the eyes of corporate Canada, a hidden talent pool. The Council will identify 50 candidates to help directors and search firms broaden the pool by introducing them to fresh faces.
More perspectives lead to better decisions. Study after study shows this to be true. Diversity 50 will be a direct link to the diverse voices FP 500 companies need in their boardrooms to better reflect their customers, employees, communities and drive results.
Fourteen months ago, we began a series of 22 roundtable discussions in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal with corporate directors representing FP500 corporations. These roundtables provided a forum for directors to learn about good practices in diversity.
So what happened when directors of Canada’s largest banks, mining and energy companies and manufacturers get into a room and talk about managing board diversity? They confessed a lack of understanding of what diversity means. They puzzled over a lack of shareholder and institutional investor interest in the issue. They asked where to find new directors because their own networks are almost exclusively made up of other white men.
We think Canada is ready for this call to action
CBDC continues to advocate that companies take a much more rigorous approach when recruiting as opposed to just relying on the old boys’ network. What’s more, with Diversity 50, we are taking away the argument that there are no diverse candidates.
Don’t mistake this as a quota. Instead, the Council supports a made-in-Canada approach. The 50 candidates will be senior leaders who have the knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary to carry out board work. It’s a big task, but it’s also an incredibly important one – both for industry and individuals who don’t fit the traditional board profile.
We will collaborate with the corporate director community, our growing group of member organizations, governments, academic institutions, aspiring directors, individual shareholders and institutional investors to speed up the pace of change.
If you are a diverse senior level executive with the experience and skills necessary to be an effective director at the board level, I invite you to self nominate yourself by completing the Diversity 50 application.
Visit www.boarddiversity.ca and add your voice and perspective to the landscape. The CBDC is taking applications from April 19 through to June 22, 2012.