4.5 Create an environment for gender inclusion

In a 2017 report[1] commissioned by the Government of Ontario, Catalyst researchers determined that Canada continues to lag behind other developed nations in terms of gender balance on boards. More women than men graduate annually from Canada’s universities and colleges, yet Canadian women continue to be underrepresented on boards and in senior management, even though organizations with women on their boards have a greater collective board intelligence than those with a less diverse gender makeup[2]. It is important to design strategies to ensure that women are recruited for governance boards and, once there, are actively engaged in decision-making. It is also important to build a board culture that creates an inclusive environment for women.

Status of Women Canada released a strategy document[3] that suggests a number of ways to support an inclusive board culture for women:

  • Consider board renewal policies and board terms to ensure that there are opportunities for new board members.
  • Include a gender consideration in board recruitment and nomination policies for different committees and positions.
  • Start educating women from a young age (make connections in both high school and on college and university campuses) about opportunities to both serve and lead.
  • Provide mentorship and networking opportunities for women in the community and workplace that include connections to the not-for-profit sector and opportunities for service in different capacities.
  • Profile strong female leaders, their pathways to leadership and their contributions in a variety of contexts.

Schedule meetings at convenient times for women

Women are not the only members of society who have family responsibilities, but they bear the greatest weight of responsibility for child-rearing and child-care. To ensure that women on the board with family responsibilities can participate fully, think about the timing and the length of board and committee meetings. Be willing to offer flexible ways to connect to board meetings, such as remote connection for members when childcare responsibilities conflict with the meeting time.

  1. Hubert, A., Macfarlane, F., Downe, B., Dart, B., Spizzirri, A. (2017). Gender Diversity On Boards in Canada: Recommendations for Accelerating Progress. Catalyst. Retrieved from Catalyst
  2. Lisson, L. (March 8, 2018). Enough talk about getting more women on boards. Here’s how to do it. Retrieved from CBC News
  3. Government of Canada (2014). Good for Business: A Plan to Promote the Participation of More Women on Canadian Boards. Gatineau, QC: Status of Women Canada. Retrieved from Status of Women Canada


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