Stantec recognized among world's most female-friendly companies

· The Pulse
By Paul Cashman
in the Business Roundup
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Edmonton-based Stantec made it onto Forbes' first list of the World's Top Female-Friendly Companies, but a new report suggests most publicly traded companies in Alberta are a ways off from reaching gender parity in the boardroom.

Seven Canadian companies were included on Forbes' ranking of 300 businesses "leading the way when it comes to trying to support women inside and outside their workforce." Research company Statista surveyed 85,000 women in 40 countries on a range of issues, including pay equity, parental leave, and promotion of gender equality.

Stantec, with 22,000 employees worldwide, ranked 164th. Calgary-based Enbridge was tops among Canadian firms at 44th. McCain Foods (102), RBC (150), Maple Leaf Foods (220), Fortis Utilities (251), and Scotiabank (264) also made the list.

"At Stantec, we strive to create a welcoming, accepting, safe, and supportive culture where everyone can bring their whole selves to work," Asifa Samji, Stantec's chief human resources officer, said in a news release. "This recognition inspires us to push even harder to foster a workplace based in respect and inclusivity."

Leadership was another metric Forbes used in its ranking. There are three women on Stantec's eight-person top executive team, and three female directors on its nine-member board.

In comparison, a study of 115 Alberta-based, TSX-listed businesses showed women held 21% of board positions in 2021, up from 18% in 2020. The Alberta Securities Commission's annual report for 2021 also found that the percentage of companies with at least one female board director climbed from 74% to 80%.

Edmonton-based Stantec recognized as a female-friendly company.

Stantec ranked 164th on the Forbes listing of female-friendly companies. Stantec

"Investors are increasingly looking for this information when making their investment decisions and it is encouraging to see the progress being made," commission CEO Stan Magidson said in a news release. "The ASC is also considering how our current diversity disclosure framework could evolve to include broader aspects of diversity."

The ASC noted female representation was greater among larger companies: Alberta-based TSX 60 Index members reported 34% of board positions are held by women and 89% have at least one woman in their executive ranks.

Edmonton companies with market capitalization of more than $1 billion include Capital Power, where four women sit on the nine-person board, including chair Jill Gardiner. Canadian Western Bank has six women on its 13-member board, and AutoCanada lists one woman among its eight board members. At Aurora Cannabis, three of nine board members are women.

"We see over and over again that having diverse boards is really beneficial to companies," Christie Stephenson, executive director of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, told the Calgary Herald.

"We still have a really long way to go. A three-per-cent increase annually will take a very long time for corporate boards to get where they need to be."