Securities Regulatory Authorities Release Results of Gender Diversity and Term Limit Disclosure Review

Securities regulatory authorities in Ontario and nine other provinces and territories of Canada published CSA Multilateral Staff Notice 58-308 Staff Review of Women on Boards and in Executive Officer Positions – Compliance with NI 58-101 Disclosure of Corporate Governance Practices on September 28, 2016. The staff notice summarizes a review of the gender diversity and term limit disclosure of 677 non-venture issuers (being those listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange with year-ends between December 31, 2015 and March 31, 2016). As a result, these statistics do not include data regarding most banks.

Key findings of the gender diversity disclosure review include:

  • there are more women on boards than last year. Of the 215 issuers with over $1 billion market capitalization, 18% of board seats are held by women (up from 10% last year);
  • only 21% of issuers adopted a policy relating to the identification and nomination of women directors (up from 15% last year) and issuers with such a policy had higher average female board representation (18%) as compared to those with no policy (10%);
  • only 9% of issuers set a target for the representation of women on boards (up from 7% last year) and those issuers with targets had a greater number of women on their boards (25%) than those without a target (10%);
  • 66% of issuers disclosed that they consider the representation of women on their boards as part of their director identification and nominating process (up from 60% last year);
  • board and executive officer representation by women varied significantly by industry.

Key findings of the board renewal disclosure review include:

  • 20% of issuers adopted director term limits (up from 19% last year);
  • of those issuers with term limits, 48% set age limits, 23% had tenure limits and 29% had both;
  • the most common reason cited for not adopting board renewal mechanisms was that term limits reduce continuity or experience on the board.

This release follows Ontario Securities Commission Chair and CEO Maureen Jensen’s call for leadership on women on boards. Chair Jensen highlighted the low number of women filling board vacancies. She noted that “of the 521 board seats vacated during the year, just 15% were filled by women” and “without an improvement in the vacancy fill rate, we will never reach 30% female board representation”.

Proposed Amendments to CBCA

In addition, the Government of Canada released proposed amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act which, among other things, would require that distributing CBCA corporations identify the gender composition of their boards and senior management and disclose their diversity policies or explain why none are in place.