Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and UBC's Sauder School of Business event provides insight on the need for more women on boards and in senior leadership roles

VANCOUVER (Oct. 19, 2009) – Despite strong evidence that organizations with women on their boards and in leadership positions outperform those without, women still represent only 13 per cent of Canada's FP 500 corporate board positions, signifying a substantial lost opportunity for Canadian business.

“This is not a gender issue, it is a business issue”, said Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, co-author of “ Why Women Mean Business - Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution ” and keynote speaker at the second annual Women on Board ™ Forum taking place Thursday, Oct. 22 in Vancouver.

“Gender diversity in the boardroom and in leadership positions isn't about being politically correct — there is a compelling business case to enhance financial performance,” said Josephine Nadel, a partner in the Vancouver office of law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG) and a Women on Board ™ forum organizer. “Numbers speak volumes, and research indicates that in terms of return on equity, businesses with the highest percentage of women board directors outperform those with the least by 53 per cent.” (2007 Catalyst study)

Nadel continued: “The reality is that organizations cannot afford not to capitalize on the opportunities that gender diversity at the top presents.  One of the starting points is for businesses to explore the changes required to advance women in leadership roles.”

BLG points to what organizations can do to inspire and support greater female leadership within, including:

  • Understand the impact of women on the economy and their business.
  • Recognize the contribution of women to leadership, governance, maximization of profit and risk management.
  • Cultivate awareness of leadership team, from CEO down, to the importance of gender balance.
  • Encourage top management to make a compelling case for change.
  • Demonstrate to senior management that gender is a business issue.
  • Recognize that responsibility for better gender balance lies with all levels of management, not just women.
  • Establish policies for recruitment management, retention and evaluation that work for men and women.
  • Establish mentoring for women.

As part of the Women on Board™ Forum, BLG (Canada's largest law firm), the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, corporate sponsor the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and supporter, Women on Board™ Mentoring Program, will provide businesses with insight into the benefits of gender balance and what organizations can do to advance women to senior leadership roles.  The Forum will bring together prominent leaders to examine how women on boards benefit and transform corporate culture by optimizing performance and managing risk.

Speakers include:

  • Avivah Wittenberg-Cox : WOMEN-omics founder & publisher, CEO, 20-First and co-author of “ Why Women Mean Business – Understanding the Emergence of our Next Economic Revolution
  • Bob Elton : President and CEO, BC Hydro
  • Anne Giardini : President, Weyerhaeuser Company Ltd.
  • Sarah Morgan-Silvester , Chancellor, UBC
  • Sarah E. Raiss , Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services, TransCanada Corp.
  • Patrick O'Callaghan , President, Patrick O'Callaghan & Associates and Co-founder of the Women on Board™ Mentoring program - Women on Board™ Program  
  • Michael Calyniuk, Global CIO and Advisory Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Chair, Institute of Corporate Directors BC Chapter
  • Josephine Nadel, partner, BLG Vancouver
  • Frieda Granot , Senior Associate Dean, Strategic Development and External Relations of the Sauder School of Business

“BLG wants to ensure it maintains a strong understanding of the issue ,” said Nadel . “The firm looks closely at changing demographics and business trends, such as the ever-increasing profitability of businesses with more female leaders, the growing number of females making consumer decisions, and the reality that in many professions, including law, the number of w omen graduates is starting to exceed male grads. Yet statistics show that in Canada , only a small portion of board members are female. ”

Frieda Granot, Senior Associate Dean, Strategic Development and External Relations of the Sauder School of Business, said, “As one of Canada's foremost business schools, the Sauder School of Business is committed to advancing female leadership and promoting a balanced, equitable, and effective approach to leadership. We hope this year's Women on Board Forum focuses on what businesses can do to better inspire and support greater female leadership within their organizations and why it is to their advantage to do so. We don't expect to be able to move that 13 per cent to 25 per cent overnight, but awareness is usually a precursor to success .”  


Conference: Women on Board Forum : Transforming Corporate Culture


Four Seasons Hotel, 791 West Georgia Street , Vancouver , Park Ballroom & Foyer


Thursday, Oct. 22, 8:30 am – 1:45 pm


Examine importance of women on boards and in leadership positions in Canada ; discuss what organizations must do to promote more women to senior decision-making and leadership roles.  Discuss business benefits of gender balance.


For more information and to attend the event, please contact:

Ann Gibbon
778.999.0064 (cell)

Advance interviews with speakers can be arranged.