Arts boards still don’t represent Toronto’s diversity: Bob Ramsay

Good comparative analysis:

Four years ago, I wrote a Star column on the shocking white maleness of the boards of Toronto’s “Big 6” arts groups. Back then, all 25 board members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra were white.

Two years ago, I wrote an update. Surely, in the most diverse city in the world, the Big 6 would diversify their boards to better reflect their donors and audiences. Many big arts groups appoint board members precisely because they have the means to help raise serious money from their communities.

Unfortunately, it seems Not in Our Back Yard. In fact, in 2015 things got worse for the Canadian Opera Company (COC), where all 36 of their board members were white. In Toronto, the visible minority had just become the majority, yet the COC couldn’t find a single person from this new majority to help guide and secure their future.

So how is the state of diversity now? Well, I described the pace of diversifying big arts boards between 2013 and 2015 as “glacial.” But glaciers are receding faster than some big arts boards are advancing on this issue. So let’s call the progress between 2015 and now “snail-like.”

First, it’s important to note that not all the big arts boards are lagging in diversity. Some are leading in it and always have. For example, TIFF’s board of directors is made up of seven white men, six men of colour, five white women and two women of colour.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) are doing pretty well too: The ROM’s board has six white men, three men of colour, six white women and four women of colour. The AGO’s board has 21 white men, four men of colour, 15 white women and two women of colour.

Meanwhile, the National Ballet of Canada board may have more women members than men, but of the 20 women, not a single one is a woman of colour. Not one. And of the 15 men, just one is a man of colour.

The Toronto Symphony board (reduced from 27 to 13) has seven men and six women on it board. All but one is white.

Once again, the Canadian Opera Company board lags behind. In 2015, 30 of its 42 board members were men and 12 were women. All were white. Today, with a board of 35, the number of women has fallen to 11, with not one being a woman of colour. Today, just two of its 22 male board members are men of colour.

Some people will argue that the arts aren’t obliged to have their leadership reflect the makeup of the general population. I buy that argument too. But all the organizations mentioned here are in the excellence business. This means they’re also in the engaging-new-communities business.

This is why I don’t buy the argument that people from non-European cultures just aren’t interested in opera, especially since the “from” can now be several generations past.

Worse still, why could the COC not even recruit a single member to its board from a ‘white’ culture that’s bathed in opera for centuries? Not one Russian-sounding name appears on the COC board. What’s more, this year, the COC hosted the two most famous opera singers in the world for a sold-out “night to remember” concert: baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and soprano Anna Netrebko. Guess where they’re from?

In my previous informal reviews of arts board composition, I’ve argued that more diverse boards will help the Big 6 expand its pool of ticket-buyers and financial supporters. Given that the arts are more challenged than ever on these two fronts, I thought that just made sense.

Source: Arts boards still don’t represent Toronto’s diversity | Toronto Star

New policy template aims to encourage gender diversity on boards

Good initiative and one benefit of having a policy is the discussion it engenders:

Canada’s leading association for corporate directors is hoping to nudge more companies to add women to their boards by offering a free template of a board-dversity policy.

The Institute of Corporate Directors has teamed up with law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLC to develop a general model of a board-diversity policy, aiming it at smaller companies that have not complied with new diversity-reporting guidelines. The template includes alternative wording options so companies can customize the content and it is free to download from both organizations’ websites.

ICD chief executive officer Rahul Bhardwaj said his organization launched the project after seeing the results of a review of diversity-reporting rules by securities regulators in September. The review showed that just 21 per cent of 677 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange clearly disclosed that they have adopted a gender-diversity policy for their boards and their executive ranks. While that is an improvement from the 15 per cent of last year, it still signals slow progress since regulators introduced new “comply or explain” rules in 2015 requiring companies to report on their approach to gender diversity.

Mr. Bhardwaj said he was concerned about the lukewarm response by companies to the new reporting rules and concluded that many smaller companies weren’t acting because they didn’t know where to start or didn’t have the resources to hire consultants and lawyers to help them develop policies.

“The first step is to actually turn their mind to it,” he said. “For organizations saying, ‘How do we actually start to craft a policy?’, we’re saying, ‘Here’s an easy way to do it.’ It will get you into the game and thinking about it.”

He said his hope is that boards will not simply “tick the box” by quickly downloading the sample policy and adding it to their disclosure documents, but will instead have a discussion about their approach to diversity.

Osler lawyer Andrew MacDougall, who wrote the policy, said many small companies could find it helpful to have access to a model that is similar to policies adopted by larger companies with help from professional advisers.

“Often the hardest part about making any change is taking that first step,” Mr. MacDougall said. “We thought that the easiest way to jump-start a dialogue at the board level would be to help them with the first step, which is the adoption of a policy.”

The template allows boards to choose whether to make a general statement about diversity, including having an “appropriate number of women directors,” or whether to commit to a specific target level of diversity on the board. They can also choose to add a time frame for reaching the target.

The policy also includes a provision that any search firm hired to help identify board candidates will include multiple women on the possible hiring list, as well as a clause that says female candidates will be included on any “evergreen” list of potential nominees.

Mr. MacDougall said he hopes many who use the template will opt to implement a concrete target for women on the board, but that might be a step too far for some.

“We wanted to make sure that they at least had a policy that forced them to have a dialogue about whether or not to adopt a target,” he said.

Source: New policy template aims to encourage gender diversity on boards – The Globe and Mail