OTTAWA—The Liberal government hopes that proposed legislation requiring publicly traded companies to disclose the gender composition of their corporate boards and senior management will lead to greater diversity, but will consider imposing specific targets if the new measures don’t work.
“We want to send a clear signal that diversity is important and you need to explain what your diversity policies are and we feel that will start moving the needle,” Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said in an interview Wednesday, Oct. 26, adding that changes happened when the United Kingdom and Australia brought in voluntary measures.
“But in a few years, if we don’t see progress—in a few years, if we don’t see meaningful results—then we will re-evaluate our position and look at all other options at that time,” Bains said.
Last month, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-25, which would, among other things, amend the Canadian Business Corporations Act to require publicly traded companies to disclose to their shareholders the number of women on their corporate boards and in senior management, as well as their policies on diversity—or explain why they do not have any.
The Canadian Business Corporations Act affects nearly 270,000 companies, but these changes would only affect those that also issue shares and report to a securities commission—including about 600 companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange, a government official said last month.
The bill, developed following consultations that began under the previous Conservative government, came up for a second reading debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
The legislation will not include targets, which is something that Catalyst, an international non-profit organization that pushes for the advancement of women in the workplace, has been calling for as the most effective way to improve the numbers.
“The rationale is simple: it’s impossible to measure progress without first having something to measure it against,” Deborah Gillis, president and CEO of Catalyst, wrote in the foreword to a June report on the issue.