New legislation tabled in Parliament on Wednesday updates several federal acts that govern federally-regulated corporations and cooperatives. Amongst the changes, which are intended to extend corporate democracy and bring regulation into the digital era, is a requirement that all corporations must begin reporting "information respecting diversity among the directors and among the members of senior management."
The new requirement will mean that any publicly traded company that falls under federal law will have to tell shareholders how many women work on its senior level.
Corporations will also be required to draw up diversity plans. If they refuse, they'll be required to provide an explanation to the federal government.
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Canada, at present, is woefully behind in advancing gender parity in the business world. By one calculation, women in Canada held less than 10 percent of Canada's highest-paying corporate jobs. Another 2014 report found that just 20 percent of board seats in Canada were held by women.
But Trudeau's solution isn't quite as aggressive as one idea adopted by his party.
A resolution passed at the Liberal Party 2016 policy convention called on the Liberal government to adopt already-proposed legislation that would require every board of directors to be made up of at least 40 percent women—though the legislation would have given corporations a grace period to get to that number.
Even if it's not quite that strong, the new initiative falls in line with the Trudeau mission to close the gender pay gap, and increase female visibility in business and politics. That campaign, beginning with Trudeau's decision to appoint a gender-balanced cabinet—capping the move with his now-famous "Because it's 2015" line—has also led the prime minister to push other countries to boost their humanitarian spending with a specific eye to pushing women's rights abroad.
The bill only applies to publicly traded companies and, as one spokesperson in Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains explained to VICE News, there will be no definition of "diversity" in the bill. He expects that regulations will be drawn up requiring corporations to disclose, at least, the gender breakdown on their boards. The government expects that corporations may volunteer to publish even more information about race, disability, sexual orientation, and other classes.
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