Alberta looks to broaden info on women executives

The Alberta Legislature on Feb. 26, 2016. Wes Rosa, Global News

Alberta’s securities regulator — at the urging of the province — is revisiting a previously rejected plan to publicize the number of women who hold top jobs in publicly traded companies.

Stephanie McLean, Alberta’s minister for the status of women, says she is not prejudging the outcome, but made it clear she does not wish to see the Alberta Securities Commission reject the plan a second time.

“I would not be thrilled if we didn’t move in that direction because that is the way the world is going,” McLean told a news conference Wednesday.

According to the province, nine out every 10 boardroom chairs in Alberta-based companies listed on the TSX are occupied by men. McLean said that gender disparity needs to be put in the spotlight.

“As hard as we work, the top has been out of reach for too many women,” said McLean.

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“This happens despite research that shows hiring women to leader positions is not only fair, but makes good business sense.”

READ MORE: Number of women on Alberta corporate boards less than half the national average: report

McLean said regulators have already passed such rules in New Brunswick, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Yukon.

McLean made the comments at a news conference at the legislature, with Stan Magidson, the head of the securities commission, participating by phone.

The two announced that the ASC has now put forward for discussion proposed rules requiring Alberta-based companies, including those listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, to disclose the number of women in senior positions along with company game plans for recruiting more women.

If not, those companies would have to explain why they are not recruiting women — and all that information would be available to shareholders.

READ MORE: Women earn about 40% less than men in Alberta: report

Magidson said a similar rule change was rejected by the ASC in 2014 because it wasn’t believed to be within the commission’s mandate, but he says their viewpoint has changed.

“It is within our mandate, having revisited it,” said Magidson.

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“It’s not about what the actual composition of your board is or isn’t, but it’s that you provide sunlight on this matter to shareholders at large from which they can make their investment decisions.”

Magidson says the ASC says the public feedback will continue for the next 30 days.

After that, the comments will be reviewed and the 12 ASC board members will vote on whether to implement the rule change.

“If there’s broad support, general support (in the comment process) for this, we would see this being effective so that reporting issuers would have these rules in place for their annual meeting season in 2017,” he said.

READ MORE: Second-worst city in Canada to be a woman is Edmonton: report

Magidson declined to speculate on what the board would do if it doesn’t get widespread support in the feedback phase.

“We always respect what we get in through the comment process,” he said. “It’s not a foregone conclusion. We go through the comment process and then we’ll evaluate.”

The ASC board members are appointed by the province.

Premier Rachel Notley’s government has made gender parity a cornerstone policy.

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Notley’s cabinet is gender balanced, and the government says it takes gender balance into consideration when making appointments to provincial agencies, boards, and commissions.

Nationally, it’s estimated women make up 25 per cent of senior management ranks and 16 per cent of board of director positions.

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