EDMONTON—A report suggests the number of women who sit on corporate boards in Alberta is less than half the national average, although their presence is slowly increasing.
The study commissioned by the Alberta Securities Commission was done by the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business.
It says women make up 6.6 per cent of corporate board members in the province and 8.9 per cent for companies in Alberta listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
An Alberta government website says women's representation on corporate boards in Canada is 14.5 per cent. Catalyst, a non-profit group, estimates women's share of board seats on Canadian stock index companies at 21 per cent.
Loren Falkenberg, associate dean of research, said the report aims to shed light on Alberta boardrooms in the hope the data will get corporate leaders to think differently about who they hire.
"I think there is room for more women to serve on boards,'' she said Tuesday.
The data reflects the large number of energy, mining and other resource industries in Alberta.
Falkenberg said the numbers are an improvement on the past and are trending upward.
The report said 22 per cent of all new board directors to Alberta TSX-listed companies this year are women and 29 per cent of corporations have at least one woman board member.
Falkenberg said the report, which is to be released every year, sets out benchmarks that are important when there is an increasing expectation by the public for more diverse representation on corporate boards.
Bill Rice, chairman of the commission, said it is not the commission's role to set quotas or tell corporations who they should hire.
He said he hopes the report will spur debate and help corporations consider casting a wide net as they seek the best talent.
"Our ambition is that we will have the strongest boards possible and acknowledging that at least half of the smartest people out there happen to be female,'' Rice said.
"It seems to make sense that there would be a significant representation from those smart people.''
Earlier this year a group of business leaders formed a Canadian chapter of an international group called the 30 Per Cent Club, which aims to help boost the proportion of woman on corporate boards and in executive positions to 30 per cent.
Club chairman Spencer Lanthier said corporate Alberta, especially the oil, gas and pipeline sectors, has been cool to the initiative.
Lanthier called the Alberta numbers disappointing, but not surprising.
"I think that publishing a report like that by the Alberta Securities Commission will probably embarrass the business community and ... will greatly assist in moving them forward,'' he said from Toronto.
"There is just a very high number of qualified women in our country, and there is no reason why they shouldn't be much more fully represented on boards. It is good for business.''
The report is based on information gleaned from 453 companies this year and 474 companies in 2014.
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