Black Leaders Underrepresented on Boards: Study

While progress is being made for some groups, Black leaders are mostly absent from Canadian boards of directors, according to a new report by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute. The study shows women continue to make slow progress but in some cases representation of racialized people is moving backwards. The situation for Black leaders, analysed for the first time, is particularly dire. 

DiversityLeads 2020 supported by TD Bank Group, is an analysis of the representation of women, Black people, and other racialized persons among 9,843 individuals on the boards of directors across sectors in eight cities: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Hamilton, London, and Ottawa. The study examined data from large companies; agencies, boards, and commissions (ABCs); hospitals; the voluntary sector; and educational institutions. 

“When we look at differences between sectors and within sectors, it’s pretty clear that the issue is not the pool or lack of available talent, but policies and processes around board recruitment,” said Wendy Cukier, founder and academic director of the Diversity Institute and the report’s lead author. “Individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour either advance or impede diverse representation. We need action to address systemic discrimination and racism, particularly anti-Black racism, that is often embedded in board policies and processes presenting unfair barriers to diversity and inclusion on boards. 

Among 1639 corporate board members, the study found only 13 who were Black (0.8%).  In Toronto, where 7.5 percent of the city’s population is Black, there were almost no members on corporate boards (0.3%). In Calgary, where 3.9% of the population is Black, 1.9% of members on corporate boards were Black. Black leader representation on boards across all sectors were disproportionately lower than other racialized groups, highlighting a need to continue tracking this population as a distinct group with disaggregated data.

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Joel Kranc

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Joel is the Editor and Deputy Publisher of Your Workplace. He is an experienced and award-winning editor, writer and communications professional. Joel began his career as a journalist and reporter covering the U.S. retirement and institutional investment market. Joel is author of Retirement Planning in 8 Easy Steps: The Brief Guide to Lifelong Financial Freedom.

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