Press release: Ontario sets gender diversity targets

Women to make up 40 per cent of provincial boards and agencies by 2019


Today, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced new gender diversity targets to ensure more women have the opportunity to reach top leadership positions at provincial agencies and other government organizations.

The Ontario government has set a target that, by 2019, women make up at least 40 per cent of all appointments to every provincial board and agency. Ontario is also encouraging businesses to, by the end of 2017, set a target of appointing 30 per cent women to their boards of directors. Once businesses set the target, they should aim to achieve it within three to five years.

These actions build on the government's long-standing support for broader gender diversity, and are informed by a report Ontario commissioned from Catalyst Canada. The new report, Gender Diversity on Boards in Canada: Recommendations for Accelerating Progress, provides advice on best practices in gender diversity on boards.

Ontario has accepted all 11 recommendations in the report, some of which are for businesses and some of which are for government, and is convening a steering committee to provide input on their implementation. The committee, co-chaired by Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance, and Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Women's Issues, includes Maureen Jensen, Chair and CEO of the Ontario Securities Commission, and Victor Dodig, President and CEO of CIBC, among others.

Premier Wynne announced the targets and the committee at a special roundtable discussion at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. The Premier and members of the steering committee were joined by representatives from Catalyst Canada and UN Women, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and women's empowerment.

Premier Wynne has accepted an invitation from UN Women to serve as a champion of Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value, a new global coalition that brings together leaders from government, the private sector and the women's movement, among others, to take action and make progress on gender diversity and equal pay.

Promoting women in corporate leadership is part of the government's economic plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in talent and skills, including helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by expanding access to high-quality college and university education. The plan is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario's history and investing in a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.

Quick Facts

  • Women make up half of Ontario’s workforce and more than half of postsecondary graduates, yet they continue to be under-represented in leadership positions — as of 2015, 51 per cent of businesses listed on the TSX had no women on their boards.
  • Since the introduction of the “comply or explain” disclosure requirements, which require TSX-listed companies to report publicly on the representation of women on their boards and in executive officer positions and related mechanisms, policies, considerations and targets, 15 per cent of companies have added one or more women to their boards.
  • Studies show that gender diversity in corporate leadership has measurable benefits for companies. Gender diversity is linked to strong financial performance, heightened innovation and enhanced client insight.

Background Information

Additional Resources


“Ontario played a leadership role in developing, and was among the first jurisdictions to adopt, comply or explain gender diversity disclosure requirements, which were also adopted by nine other jurisdictions across Canada. We need to keep building on this success — establishing these two new gender diversity targets will help to pave the way for more women to sit on boards of directors and take on executive roles. I encourage other businesses and corporations to follow our government’s example and become leaders in gender equality in the workplace.” - Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

“Increasing the number of women on boards and in senior management positions is a commitment that is good for the economy, good for business, and critical for promoting gender diversity in Ontario’s corporate and public sectors. As companies continue to go global, competition for talent — and for customers — will only increase. Numerous studies show that businesses that fail to help advance women’s careers are at risk of falling behind in today’s marketplace. We believe Ontario companies should no longer take that risk.” - Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance

“Today marks an important day as we continue to work toward building a stronger economy and a more equitable society. This announcement is another example of how we are removing barriers and increasing opportunities for women to advance their careers and realize their full potential.” - Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues

“The Ontario government has an important role to play in accelerating progress for women on boards and throughout the pipeline. Governments and businesses will achieve much more working together than in isolation, and we commend the government for its leadership, as well as its vision in establishing a committee of prominent business leaders to help drive sustainable change.” - Deborah Gillis, President and CEO of Catalyst

“Increasing diversity, including the representation of women, in corporate leadership is important. Canada today has some of the most diverse and successful communities in the world. The more government and private-sector organizations have leaders that reflect this reality the stronger and more successful they will be. That is why I’m proud to be a member of this Steering Committee.” - Victor Dodig, President and CEO of CIBC and steering committee member

“The Ontario Securities Commission has a leadership role in the regulation of financial services in Ontario and ensures investors’ interests are safeguarded. Implementing our ‘comply or explain’ disclosure requirements has been seminal over the past year in increasing the representation of women on boards of directors and in executive officer positions on TSX-listed companies. I look forward to working with the Steering Committee to focus on ways to increase diversity at the top of the province’s leading organizations.” - Maureen Jensen,Chair and CEO of the OSC and steering committee member

“This initiative will bring much-needed, urgent progress on closing the gender pay gap and will impact millions of women and their dependents. Canada's promotion of women in leadership is far-sighted; research shows categorically how much women could contribute to the economy. This takes more than just raising wages; it needs strengthened equal-pay laws and policies to support unpaid care and domestic work, and I know these are in sight along with quotas to increase women’s senior representation. All of this would really make a difference in the lives of women and girls and would set a formidable and influential leadership example in championing the fight towards gender equality.” - Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,Executive Director of UN Women

This press release was originally published by the Ontario Government.

Read more about UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka's official mission to Canada.