We are delighted that our first contributor to the Powerful
Women series is corporate law and governance expert, Professor
Anita Anand. Professor Anand holds the J.R. Kimber Chair in
Investor Protection and Corporate Governance at the University of
Toronto Faculty of Law – the first research chair for
investor rights in North America. Professor Anand provides
significant insight into the issues we are exploring in our series.
Not only does she research and write about issues of corporate
board diversity, Professor Anand has sat as a board member for
Oakville Hydro. You can learn more about Professor Anand and her
research here and follower her on Twitter @AnitaAnand2.
How did you get involved in research on board diversity?
My area of expertise and research relates to investor protection
and corporate governance. Yet when I was completing my master's
degree, I wrote my thesis on employment equity. My research on
board diversity melds my previous academic interest in gender and
race with corporate governance initiatives. My co-author, Vijay
Jog, approached me one day and asked if I would be interested in
undertaking research in this area. I really wanted to co-author
with him given his academic background and I was also interested in
the issues given the legal initiatives in this area. Our first
article is forthcoming in the Canadian Business Law Journal. We
believe that additional attention should be paid to the potential
contributions that women and visible minorities can make to
corporate boards. Building on Gary Becker's writing, we
hypothesize that individuals from diverse groups bring specific
advantages to the firm and, as a result, firms will be at a
competitive disadvantage if they fail to hire these directors.
Specifically, they have a unique ability to understand diverse
labour and consumer markets, to provide access to untapped and new
networks, and to exercise useful approaches in negotiations around
the boardroom table.
People make the "it's the right thing to do"
argument often when speaking about board diversity. From your
perspective, what is the most compelling argument for having
diversity on boards?
I conceive of diversity in the broadest possible terms, i.e. not
only in terms of typical demographics such as race, gender etc.
What we should be aiming for on boards is diversity in all of its
permutations, including diversity in age, competencies and even
geographic location (depending on the business). The ultimate goal
is to ensure that highly competent decision-makers with various
backgrounds and skill sets are contributing to making decisions
that are in the best interests of the corporation. It is important
not to define a person according to one characteristic alone. For
example, I am a woman, but I am also a visible minority. My value,
I assume, as a board member would not emanate simply from my having
these two characteristics, but from my overall skill set.
What are the key challenges and opportunities that you see for
women as leaders? Are there any challenges or opportunities that
you think are more critical or relevant in the context of the
Within boards, we continuously need to confirm the importance of
diversity and that means remaining committed to seeking board
positions and remaining on the board once we have achieved them. I
will say that in my experience, boards are becoming more open to
appreciating the importance of diversity. Nevertheless, nominating
committees must continuously be active in board recruitment from
diverse sources. It is not enough anymore to say that "we
cannot find qualified women." Qualified women are out there
– look at the CBDC's Diversity 50 list, for example.
Having served on an LDC Board, what piece of advice do you have
for a woman starting her career in the energy sector?
I had a completely positive experience serving on an LDC board.
My advice, regardless of the type of corporation on which you are
serving, is to learn the business and think seriously about how you
can best contribute to the board's objectives and process. My
expertise is governance and law – so I was especially active
on the governance committee and in regard to legal issues. I knew
my role and tried my best to fulfill it. Be active and seek to
contribute every time you can – whether in a board meeting, a
board retreat or corporate social event.
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