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​We invited award-winning Edmonton journalist, Curtis Gillespie, to interview leaders and members of Team EPCOR to provide a unique perspective on our role and commitment to ESG. In this article, EPCOR's Board Chair, Janice Rennie, shares her views on board diversity.

Above Board

​Janice Rennie, the Board Chair of EPCOR, knows that times have changed but that we still have a ways to go when it comes to diversity in the workplace and on corporate boards. She laughs when she recalls that one of her very first major appointments, to an industrial company board back in the early 1990s, came when she was pregnant. She asked if they could hold off on her appointment until after the upcoming AGM, so that she could give birth first. “I don't think they'd ever had many, if any, women on the board," she says. “Let alone one who was pregnant!"

That made her a pioneer in many ways. As did bringing her new son along to meetings here and there, which, back then, “was just an array of older men and me." Rennie worked as a CA and development executive, joined the board of Edmonton Power, EPCOR's precursor, and later served as the company's senior vice president of human resources. She returned to the board in 2017 and became chair in 2018.  This arc makes Rennie uniquely qualified to understand both the evolution of EPCOR's board and boards in general.


“I love EPCOR," she says. “It's done such amazing things." Rennie believes the current board is as good as she's ever seen. "It's such a dedicated group of directors, filled with energy and commitment."

In many ways, the quality of EPCOR’s services flows directly from that energy and commitment, from the quality of the strategic decisions made at the board level, which is one of the reasons why the board is committed to exploring the concept of diversity and executing on it. But it’s not as obvious a task as it might seem at first. What, precisely, is diversity? “It's not a science," says Rennie. “There's a bit of magic to it. You've got to find the right people. You strive for diversity, but that means a diversity of people, of talents, of skillsets, of personalities."

It's a serious undertaking, not least because every decision impacts the delivery of utility services for the communities it serves. The board knows that operating across a complex array of terrains, demands, communities, peoples, governments and much more, requires a skillset at the board level that is the equal or better to that complexity. Progress is being made in reflecting that challenge. Four out of 11 board positions at EPCOR, for instance, are currently held by women, even though in 2020 only 22% of board seats across Canada were held by women and only 5% of boards were chaired by a woman.

It's about more than gender, however. Diversity on the EPCOR board is defined by a broad range of attributes, including gender and ethnicity, of course, but also making sure the definition includes covering off essential disciplines such as finance, economics and engineering. Geographic and demographic considerations are also taken into account. Potential board members are assessed for their independence as well as their alignment with EPCOR's vision, so that there is every assurance they will represent EPCOR with integrity in the community. The board recruitment process is guided by a skills matrix that allows the recruitment and governance committee to seek out candidates who can meet this diverse set of requirements. The matrix scores candidates against multiple criteria, including experience as a director, in business, in HR, in utility regulation, health and safety.

In the end, it's about leadership, which will always have a significant impact on an organization. An organization is a bit like a lawn and good leadership is the water that sustains it. The moisture seeps into the earth, nourishes the soil, helps life thrive at every level. The EPCOR board understands that excellence in its processes and decision-making saturates the entire organization. If the board remains fresh and diverse, so will the organization. Which is why the board is committed to consistently assessing the who, how and why of its composition. 

“We will always be making progress, but we still have to accelerate our thinking," says Rennie. “Diversity that both reflects society and finds the best talent is a balance we will always be moving towards. It's an important process of evolution and EPCOR is at the front of it."

Gender diversity in Canadian boardrooms

EPCOR's 11-member board has included four women since 2017, equal to 36% of board seats. By comparison, a recent survey found that 13% of Canadian firms exceeded the 35% threshold for women directors in 2020, and 10% of boards included four or more women directors.

As of 2020, about 22% of board seats at Canadian firms were held by women, and 5% of boards were chaired by a woman (as is EPCOR's). About 29% of TSX-listed firms and 59% of the TSX 60 have formally adopted gender diversity targets at the board level.

(All contextual data from: Diversity Disclosure Practices, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, 2020).


Investing in our people is one way we're building stronger communities

We're committed to helping our communities by protecting the environment and promoting social responsibility. We do that by conducting our business responsibly, with openness and transparency. We're pleased to share our ESG report to showcase our performance in areas that are important to us—our customers, our partners, and the communities we serve.

See our ESG report