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Aug 23, 2021

Women occupy a quarter of board seats at new TSX-listed companies, data shows

Only three women made chair of their board at newly listed Canadian companies this year

Only a quarter of board seats at newly public TSX-listed companies are occupied by women in 2021, according to data from Women Get On Board and investor relations firm irlabs.

From January 1, 2021, to August 15, 2021, there were 61 new listings on the TSX with a total of 318 board seats. The data shows that out of those only 25 percent (79 seats) were held by women. 

The number of women directors serving on the boards of these 61 companies ranged from zero to three. Only three companies out of the 61 have a female chair and only one has a female vice chair. 

Out of the 61 newly listed companies, Greenlane Renewables had the highest proportion of female board representation – its three female board directors represent 43 percent of the overall board.

TSX-listed companies in Canada have since December 2014 been required to disclose their approach to gender diversity. But Canadian public companies will see stricter proxy voting guidelines on board gender diversity requirements come into effect for the 2022 proxy season.

ISS has said it expects S&P and TSX-listed companies to have at least 30 percent female board representation, effective February 1, 2022. If a company can’t reach this percentage, it will need to have a written gender diversity policy. This policy will need to show a commitment from the company to achieve at least 30 percent women board representation over a reasonable timeframe.

If a company has no female board directors and no formal written gender diversity policy, ISS will recommend voting to withhold the chair of the nominating committee, including for widely held companies that are not on the index.

Additionally, from January 1, 2022, Glass Lewis will require all TSX-listed issuers to have at least two female directors. Boards with six or fewer total directors will be expected to have at least one female member.

At companies that fail to meet these requirements, Glass Lewis will recommend voting against the chair of the nominating committee.

Glass Lewis also says that it will carefully review a company’s disclosure regarding diversity, including its targets and timelines for increasing women representation. Glass Lewis says it may refrain from making a negative recommendation if the company provides sufficient rationale or a plan to address the lack of board diversity.