How Canadian Companies Can Diversify Their Boards

Victor G. Dodig, President and Chief Executive Officer, CIBC

As the President and CEO of CIBC and a Catalyst Canada Advisory Board member, I know firsthand the importance of gender diversity for increased innovation and stronger financial performance in business.

Simply put, gender diversity more accurately reflects the world we're dealing in. When you embrace it, you gain insight into your clients' thinking, you develop better relationships, and you build a better company. At CIBC, we’re building a diverse workforce for our clients and the communities we serve—leveraging the unique talents of all our employees and offering them  an opportunity to contribute, drive innovation, and deliver solutions.

Last month, I served as a panelist at the 2016 Corporate Board Summit, hosted by Catalyst and the 30% Club Canada, along with Maureen Jensen, Chair and CEO of the Ontario Securities Commission; Donald Lowry, Chair of Capital Power; and Thomas O’Neill, Chair of Bank of Nova Scotia. We  discussed the practical and concrete actions by Canadian companies to diversify their boards.

Several recommendations emerged from the Board Summit panel discussion:

  1. Engage men and women leaders about the business imperative of gender diversity. Setting the tone at the top, in addition to grassroots, is important in cultivating a culture of inclusivity.
  2. Remove barriers and biases, increasing awareness of unconscious biases and updating talent processes to reduce unconscious bias, as well as encouraging mindset and behaviour changes.
  3. Set targets and measure progress. Goals and targets are important drivers in achieving results—as we know through our own work, ”what gets measured gets managed.”
  4. Review board renewal and recruitment policies through a gender lens. For example, ensure you are channeling a broad network to find a certain number of qualified, talented women candidates for every opportunity.
  5. Get to know your talent! You are not able to sponsor talent you don’t know, so broaden your network and keep them on your radar so you may develop and advance a diverse talent pipeline.

As Chair of the 30% Club Canada, and  I can tell you that we’re seeing encouraging progress. Since launching the Canadian Chapter in 2015, we’ve already signed up 110 member organizations. It’s an important milestone that sends a clear message to our clients, team members, and Canadian business leaders. Member organizations understand that gender balance encourages better leadership and governance—it’s a message that’s spreading quickly and widely. In addition, the 30% Club’s partnership with Catalyst Canada enhances our efforts by working together toward improving gender diversity in Canada.

If your firm has not already signed up to become a 30% Club member organization, I encourage you to join us. If you are already a member, please reach out to your network and help us continue the conversation.