ACCA recommendations to help more qualified women gain positions on corporate boards in Canada, and throughout the Commonwealth

Women still poorly represented on Canadian boards - comprise only 14.5 per cent of the nation's 500 largest company boards

TORONTO, Sept. 26, 2013 /CNW/ - ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) has made six key recommendations to help more qualified women attain corporate board positions in Canada, and in the 53 other Commonwealth countries.

The recommendations are included in the organization's recently-released report, 'Paving the way to opportunities: women in leadership across the Commonwealth'.

"As the report found, we have a long way to go - in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth," said Suzanne K. Godbehere, Head of ACCA Canada. "Gender diversity creates more effective boards, reflecting a broader range of skills, experiences and perspectives. This is especially important as women gain financial power throughout the world. However, too many companies still aren't getting it."

In its report, ACCA revealed that women comprise only 14.5 per cent of the directors on Canada's 500 largest company boards.

Most Commonwealth countries aren't faring any better - for example, in the United Kingdom, women make up 13.3 per cent of those serving on FTSE 250 company boards. In Australia, in a sample of 197 listed companies, women comprise 13.8 per cent of board directors.

In India, it's just five per cent.

"Organizations that don't actively identify and recruit highly-skilled women to their boards are missing tremendous opportunities," said Godbehere. "The global consumer spend by women is projected to reach $28-trillion by 2014 - that's a consumer market senior leadership needs to fully understand."

The 30 per cent rule

The ACCA report stated that "the 30 per cent rule" has been widely accepted as the baseline level for the proportion of women on boards to be sufficient to have an impact.

Globally, according to the World Bank in 2013, 39.8 per cent of companies still have no female directors, and less than one-tenth of organizations have reached the 30 per cent female representation that constitutes an effectively diverse board.

Within the Commonwealth, no country has legislation regarding corporate board composition. However, Kenya and the province of Quebec have passed legislation for state-owned enterprises. In 2010, Kenya mandated a 33 per cent minimum for each gender. In 2006, Quebec mandated that women comprise 50 per cent of the boards of state-owned enterprises.

The recommendations

To achieve diversity in boards and senior leadership across the Commonwealth, the report's recommendations include:

1. The creation of a database of board-ready (and board-potential) women.

A Commonwealth database should include women across all regions, and a wide range of sectors and backgrounds.

2. Supporting sponsoring initiatives.

This approach will help to create consistent levels of quality in the sponsoring process, while sharing best practice across different regions.

3. Building a research monitor across the Commonwealth.

Lack of comparable data impedes the ability to identify clearly what's happening in different countries. There needs to be more on the performance of companies with diverse boards.

4. Raising career aspirations.

Career development needs much sharper integration from primary to tertiary education. The outcome would enable female students to apply and use their education to support career advancement.

5. Creating a media strategy that clearly and objectively demonstrates the impact of women in senior leadership positions, to enable stakeholders to make informed choices; this includes customers and investors.

Media visibility helps to build and retain a critical mass of women in leadership.

6. Sharing best practice across the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth has a unique role to play and a perspective to add in sharing international and more inclusive best practice, supporting a stronger investor and regulatory focus on diversity, including gender.

Note to Editors

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants with 162,000 members and 428,000 students in 173 countries.

We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

We work through a network of 89 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA Canada has 2,500 members and 1,200 students in Canada.

ACCA is not affiliated with any chartered accountant (CA) organization.

Twitter: @accacanada

SOURCE: Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

For further information:

Jim Gray
Sussex Strategy Group

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