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No Gender Parity on Condo Boards

Earlier this month, CBC published an article on gender parity on corporate boards across Canada. Its findings were surprising and it made us wonder whether condo boards fared better in Ontario. You may be surprised by the results of our research.

Inequities in the corporate world

As reported by the CBC, according to Statistics Canada, less than 20% of corporate board directorships were held by women in 2016. If this figure was not disappointing enough, the study also found that up to 56% of corporate boards were filled entirely by men, while another 28% were limited to a single women director. These numbers were collected through the Corporations Return Act.

These numbers are staggering considering that women have made up almost half (47%) of the entire Canadian workforce since the early 2000s (and that they have systematically outnumbered men in the general Canadian population since at least 1976).

Benefits of diversity

One of the many purposes behind having condos managed by boards (as opposed to centralizing all of the decision-making powers onto a single person) is to allow for debate and for the meeting of many minds. After all, don’t we say that two heads are better than one?

But what’s the point of having a board if there is no diversity amongst the directors and if they all think alike?

It is no secret that diversity benefits any organization. Diversity (be it based on gender, age, ethnic background or any other form of diversity) allows for the sharing of multiple points of view which, in a best case scenario, results in constructive debates. Differing opinions and ideas inevitably lead to innovation and progress.

Diversity also allows for better representation of the corporation’s membership. Most condo corporations are made up of owners and occupants from diverse groups. Would it not make sense to have that diversity reflected on the board of directors? This would assist in making decisions which meet the needs and wishes of the collective.

Gender parity on condo boards?

So, how are we doing on condo boards in Ontario? Have we attained gender parity?

Relying on the CAO’s public registry, we have looked at the composition, size and gender parity of condo boards across the province.  In the spirit of scientific transparency, we have to admit that we focused on major urban centers in the province.  Reality may therefore differ in smaller urban areas.  Another relevant consideration is that we based our numbers (and our assumption of gender) on the names listed in the registry.

First, the good news:  42% of all condo directors in Ontario are women.  The balance (58%) are men. On this front, Condo Land is doing much better than the corporate world.

But bias trends emerge when we unpack these numbers: 17% of condo boards are comprised of men only. In comparison, only 8% of boards are women-only.  While 75% of condo boards have directors from both genders, 44% of Ontario condo boards have a single woman director.

Considering that condo boards are required to have (at least) 3 board members, having a single female voice on a board means that women hold a minority position on 44% of condo boards. This, we felt, required that we dig a bit deeper in an attempt to better identify the true extent of gender balance on condo boards.

As indicated already, the Condo Act requires that boards be comprised of at least 3 directors. The CAO registry seems to indicate that 43% of boards are comprised of 3 directors; while 36% are comprised of 5 directors.  If you are wondering about the balance, some have 6 directors or more and (quite inexplicably) nearly 9% of condo boards have less than 3 directors….  In fact, we found a couple of condos who are reporting to only have 1 director on their board!

With these numbers, we can see another trend emerging. While only 8% of the boards are composed exclusively of women; women form a majority in another 31% of them. On the other end of the spectrum, boards are ran exclusively by  men in 17% of the cases and form a majority in another 44%. All in all, men hold the majority on 61% of Ontario condo boards, with women holding the majority in the balance.

Conclusion

I’m not sure what conclusion (if any) can be drawn from the above numbers. In a sense, they are what they are. Thankfully (and admittedly to my surprise), Condo Land is doing much better than the corporate world. I just hope that one is not at the detriment of the other.

Perhaps a good practice could be to (discreetly) solicit members of underrepresented groups in the context of the AGM’s nomination process. It might also be helpful to discuss the benefits of a diverse board prior to the AGM.  Finally, steps could be taken to encourage members from diverse backgrounds to put their name forward as a lack of diversity within an existing board may deter some candidates from seeking the role.

But keep in mind that diversity is not only measured at the time of election.  Another good practice may be to solicit opinions from all directors (including the more quiet ones) throughout the year. There is no real use in having a diverse directorship if only one or two of its members do all of the talking and deciding. Diversity works best when you exercise it and take advantage of it.

Regrettably, we were only able to gather information about the gender composition of condo boards. It would be interesting to know more about the age and ethnic diversity of our Ontario condo boards. I feel a survey coming…

Tell us about your boards. How diverse is it? Is there a voice missing? How could it be made more diverse?

Many thanks to Erin Durant for her kind review of this blog post.