While female representation in executive positions has improved over the years, still less than half of board seats at Canadian banks and credit unions are held by women, and there’s an even smaller number of chief executives, according to a report.

A report released by credit rating agency DBRS Morningstar sampled 19 financial institutions and found females account for 45 per cent of board seats.

There’s more female representation on executive teams at credit unions (44 per cent) when compared to banks, with about a third of leadership roles held by women (33 per cent).


Women are still far behind equal representation when it comes to holding chief executive positions.

Out of the 11 banks sampled in the report, there are only two female chief executive officers (18 per cent), HSBC Bank Canada’s Linda Seymour and Laurentian Bank of Canada’s Rania Llewellyn.

In comparison, out of the eight Canadian credit unions DBRS reviewed, 38 per cent of businesses had a female CEO.


The report found companies that focused on gender diversity at the leadership level led to improved financial performance.

“This indeed holds true for our sample of U.S. and European banks where we noted a positive correlation between female executive representation and credit ratings for the sample of banks,” the report said.

But it added that the Canadian correlation is relatively flat due to the credit unions sampled as “their higher percentage of female executives, positively skew the sample as their long-term ratings are within a very tight band, owing to their niche franchises within their limited footprint and their mission of maximizing member benefits versus profits.”


The report said the lack of uniformity in disclosing gender diversity targets makes it difficult to track improvements, but if fixed it could help promote women to more executive roles.

“Studies have shown that large institutional investors will have a direct role in influencing women’s elevation to the executive level, particularly their succession to CEO roles,” the report said.

“This has the potential to be particularly true in Canada as many of the large institutional investors who have signed the Canadian Investor Statement on Diversity & Inclusion are invested in Canadian banks and have made public their intentions to engage with their investee companies on DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] issues.”