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OSC pitches gender equality on corporate boards

Canada's main securities regulator says Canadian companies should have to disclose the percentage of women they have on their corporate boards and explain their policy on the topic.

The Ontario Securities Commission is the regulatory body that governs companies that do business in Ontario. In a working paper published on its website Tuesday, the regulator said it is looking for comments from the public over the next 60 days.

"In my view, diversity of opinion is invaluable to corporate decision making, and it is therefore necessary to encourage greater representation of women at senior levels," said Maureen Jensen, the OSC's executive director. "This proposal will inform investors of the progress that Canadian companies are making in advancing the representation of women on their boards and in senior management."

As the regulator for the Province of Ontario, any company that trades on the TSX or Venture exchange has to adhere to any rules the OSC passes.

The OSC is asking companies to disclose information on:

Their policies regarding female representation on their boards and in senior management.

Consideration of the representation of women in the director selection process.

Certain quantitative information regarding the representation of women in the organization, on the board and in senior management.

Canada has consistently lagged behind other developed nations in terms of female representation on corporate boards. Only about 10 per cent of all publicly traded companies in Canada have any women at all on their boards, despite some boards having more than a dozen directors in some cases.

The OSC's proposal stops well short of implementing a quota, or percentage that must be hit. Instead, the regulator just wants companies to say what their policies are regarding female representation on their boards, and explain why the company isn't implementing policies to increase that number.

Public comment is being sought until Sept. 27.