Study Shows Room - and Reasons - for Improvement in Gender Diversity in Canadian ICT Boards

OTTAWA, July 30, 2013 /CNW/ - A study released by ITAC, the Information Technology Association of Canada, reveals that while Canadian information and communications technology companies are performing about as well as other sectors in terms of the engagement of women on their boards of directors, there are compelling strategic reasons to do better. The boards of the 10 largest Canadian ICT companies are 16.5% female compared with Spencer Stuart's 2012 Board index of larger Canadian companies which average about 17%.

However, Karen Wensley, the author of the study Gender Diversity of Boards of Directors of Canadian ICT Companies, cautions against complacency and suggests there are a number of benefits that would accrue to the industry if it improved its performance. For example, she notes that the ICT sector lags significantly behind Canada's five largest banks whose boards are nearly 30% female. And she notes that Canada overall is falling behind other countries, slipping to 9th place among industrialized nations.

The most compelling reasons to improve, however, stem from business performance. The report notes "… studies have repeatedly found that, on average, companies with the highest representation of women on their boards financially outperform those with the lowest." Additionally, the ICT industry chronically faces a shortage of skilled workers to fund its growth and as the report notes "The ICT sector has struggled to attract young women. And many young women in high school believe ICT companies would not be places at which they would want to work. Women board members can be role models who can help change this picture."

The report provides useful insight into the challenges early stage, mid-market growth companies and large public companies face when assembling inclusive boards of directors. Early stage companies are typically seeking domain expertise and a network of business contacts from their advisors or directors. The requirements change when companies grow in size and acquire private or public financing. Mid-market growth companies often look to directors to add or strengthen skills the executive team may lack. They also seek credible candidates with a track record that will, among other things, score well with financial analysts. Large companies typically have more resources and more latitude to use their board for strategy setting and good governance which enables them to draw on a larger field of candidates. It is typically at this stage that the industry finds its leaders in the active recruitment of women directors. The paper cites two excellent examples, Softchoice Corporation and Open Text, of Canadian companies that have demonstrated that creating more diverse boards is a matter of corporate will.

This study is part of a larger initiative by ITAC to address gender diversity issues throughout the ICT workforce. Lloyd Bryant, Vice-President and General Manager, PPS Canada for Hewlett-Packard (Canada), chairs ITAC's Diversity Advisory Group. "The engagement of women in our workforce has hovered around 25% for over a decade," he said. "ITAC has made improving the gender ratio a priority for the association. Women on ICT boards is an important focus for our work. Diverse boards of directors are a very important public expression of a company's commitment to a more inclusive work environment. If enough companies step up to improve their board diversity, then the industry itself starts to look much more welcoming to the major contribution women make."

"ITAC itself has demonstrated the positive impact of a diverse board," said Karna Gupta, President and CEO of ITAC. "Several years ago the association set a goal to change our level of women directors to 30%. We achieved that goal over two years ago and today women represent 32% of our board."

The report contains a number of recommendations to encourage broader diversity in ICT boards of directors. "Karen Wensley has given us a very important perspective on the status quo," Lloyd Bryant said. "She has also presented some very practical ideas for improvement. ITAC is committed to taking action in this important area."

A teleconference call to discuss this study is scheduled for Wednesday, July 31, 2013 starting at 9:00 a.m. (EDT). The call can be accessed via 416-764-8646 or 1-888-396-8049.

About ITAC:
The Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) is the voice of the Canadian information and communications technologies (ICT) industry. ITAC represents a diverse ICT community spanning telecommunications and internet services, ICT consulting services, hardware, microelectronics, software and electronic content. ITAC's community of companies accounts for more than 70 per cent of the 572,700 jobs, $155.3 billion in revenue, $6.2 billion in R&D investment, $30.4 billion in exports and $11 billion in capital expenditures that the ICT industry contributes annually to the Canadian economy. The ICT sector currently represents 4.9 per cent of Canada's gross domestic product (GDP) and accounted for 9.4 per cent of all real GDP growth since 2002. ITAC is a prominent advocate for the expansion of Canada's innovative capacity and for stronger productivity across all sectors through the strategic use of technology.

SOURCE: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION OF CANADA

For further information:

Lynda Leonard 
Senior Vice President, ITAC
(613) 238-4822 ext. 2223

Wayne Hendry
Manager of Communications, ITAC
(905) 602-8345 ext. 2224

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