Editorial: One small step for women, one giant step for mankind

Banyan Gold CEO Tara Christie and her daughter Katie in the Yukon.

Chairman Mao Zedong’s famous proclamation that “women hold up half the sky” may be true but certainly not as chief executive officers or in the boardrooms of the corporate world.

So it was refreshing to hear the recent news that Citigroup – the third largest bank in the United States – has chosen Jane Fraser as its next CEO. Fraser, 53, started her career at Goldman Sachs in London and then went to Harvard Business School. She joined McKinsey & Co. and was later hired at Citigroup, where she has worked for the past 16 years and is currently president. She takes the job in February.

“Ms. Fraser’s ascension is ground-breaking on Wall Street, which has never quite shaken off its longstanding reputation as a boy’s club, with men dominating the upper ranks of banks and other financial firms, despite efforts to recruit and promote more women,” The New York Times wrote on Sept. 10, noting that there are just 31 women who are chief executives of the 500 companies that comprise the S&P 500 stock index. The newspaper points out that not only will Fraser “not have any female counterparts among the 10 largest U.S. banks when she becomes Citi’s chief, she will also join a very small group of female leaders at major American corporations.”

News of Fraser’s appointment got me thinking about the status quo in Canada generally and in our industry in particular. Turns out there isn’t much data on CEOs, and the stats that are available have more to do with female representation on boards.

But in its fifth annual report on diversity disclosure practices relating to women in leadership roles at TSX-listed companies, business law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP noted that as of July 31, 2019, just 3.5% of the 685 companies providing diversity disclosure have a woman in the role of chief executive officer. The number drops to 1.7% of the 54 companies providing disclosure on S&P/TSX 60 companies – a stock market index of 60 large companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The Osler report surveyed public disclosure documents filed between Jan. 1 and July 31 last year by all TSX-listed companies that are subject to the diversity disclosure requirements under securities laws. It found that women held over 18.1% of board seats among the 657 disclosing companies on the TSX, up 50% since 2015, when the percentage was 12%. The number rises to 30.2% among the 53 members of the S&P/TSX 60 index that provided diversity disclosure.

The Osler report also noted that 50% of New Gold’s directors last year were women (a subsequent appointment now means three of the board’s seven members are women,) and based on a recent conversation with John Valley, one of the report’s co-authors, it appears that the boards of at least two other mining companies will feature 50% female directors in this year’s report.

Only 4.4% of the 685 disclosing companies on the TSX have a female board chair, the same percentage as in 2018. For the S&P/TSX 60 index, the figure is higher at 8.3% of the 53 members providing disclosure.

“A majority of companies now disclose that they have adopted a board policy that specifically targets increases in the proportion of women directors and 22.5% of companies and a majority of the S&P/TSX 60 companies have adopted targets for the proportion of women directors on the board, which is a 5% increase compared to last year,” the report stated.

Osler compared its numbers with those reported overseas in the U.K., Australia and the United States. Based on data from those jurisdictions, women represent 30.2% of the FTSE 100 boards and 30% on Australia’s ASX200 boards, “and in the U.S. there are no longer any all-male boards among the S&P500 companies.”

Of the forty-one companies that the report indicated had disclosed that they set targets for the representation of women in executive officer positions, six were mining companies (Iamgold, Sherritt International, SSR Mining, Denison Mines, Osisko Gold Royalties and Eldorado Gold).

As of mid-2019, only seven TSX-listed mining companies disclosed that 50% or more of their executive officers were women: Balmoral Resources, INV Metals, Nickel Creek Platinum, UEX Corp., Trilogy Metals, Lucara Diamond and Sulliden Mining Capital.

“Women are under-represented in boardrooms across all industries and though there are signs of improvement, a glass ceiling continues to exist even within the boardroom hierarchy,” concludes a report released in March by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD’s) Analytical Database on Individual Multinationals and their Affiliates (ADIMA).

ADIMA, which the OECD set up at the beginning of last year, says women make up just 16% of board members in the top 500 multinational enterprises by market cap, with shares as low as 12% in the technology sector.

“Even in the best performing sector – Consumer Non-Cyclicals (companies producing household staples) – women make up less than one-fifth of the boardroom,” the ADIMA report states. “Indeed, looking at large multinationals as a whole, only around 1 in 20 of the top 500 have female representation at above 30%.”

The database, which draws from a number of open big data sources, also notes that there is a glass ceiling on boards, too. “While the female share of board members in an independent advisory role is 23%, their share of senior leadership roles is only 7%.”



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