According to the Information Technology Association of Canada, our nation's 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. But the ITAC says this isn't necessarily a good thing.
A new report from the organization suggests that there are "compelling strategic reasons to do better," cautioning against complacency. The report notes that "studies have repeatedly found that, on average, companies with the highest representation of women on their boards financially outperform those with the lowest."
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%. But Karen Wensley, the author of the study Gender Diversity of Boards of Directors of Canadian ICT Companies, points out that the ICT sector lags significantly behind Canada's five largest banks whose boards are nearly 30% female. And she adds that Canada overall is falling behind other countries, slipping to 9th place among industrialized nations.
According to the report, the ICT industry chronically faces a shortage of skilled workers to fund its growth: "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 engagement of women in our workforce has hovered around 25% for over a decade," says Lloyd Bryant, vice-president of Hewlett-Packard Canada, who chairs ITAC's Diversity Advisory Group. "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."