Canada needs to include more women in executive roles if it hopes to remain globally competitive, according to the chair of Royal Bank of Canada’s board of directors.

“I’ve said many times: Canada is a small country. We can’t afford to have half the team sitting on the bench,” Kathleen Taylor told BNN Bloomberg in an interview on Thursday.

“So, getting women more engaged in our businesses at all levels, including in the C-Suites and on our boards, is a very, very important task.”

A feature story by BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman published last July revealed only one of the 100 most influential companies on the S&P/TSX Composite Index had a female CEO: Calgary-based Canadian Utilities Ltd.

That report also revealed 15 of those companies had only one woman on their board of directors, with one more – cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corp. – having none at all at the time of reporting.

The Institute of Corporate Directors agrees that a diversity of voices in the boardroom is becoming increasingly important.

“We know that gender equality and gender balance helps mitigate risk in groupthink, so now you’ve got diversity in thinking. Of course, age as well,” Rahul Bhardwaj, the Institute’s President and CEO, told BNN Bloomberg on Thursday.

“So you want to make sure that you’ve got a very competent group and the question of what makes up a competent group is a really important one right now.”

The chair of Manulife Financial Corp. added that a diversity of knowledge base is also critical on Canada’s corporate boards.

“When I reflect on my time as a director, I think the single biggest change, and the most positive change has been the introduction of subject matter experts, and diversity,” Manulife chair John Cassaday told BNN Bloomberg.

“We need to make sure that as we think about the skills that are required for a board to operate effectively that we have the right people in place, the right people on the bus.”

Taylor – who also serves on the boards of Air Canada, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and the Hospital for Sick Children – said that businesses need to monitor and try to meet diversity goals, in the same way they measure their financial targets.

“We measure everything else in business … earnings growth, we have sales targets, we have all kinds of metrics that we discuss both inside and outside Canadian businesses,” Taylor said.

“Therefore, some target-setting around aspirational goals for our diversity and inclusion objectives is a very important next step.”

And as for whether Taylor thinks Canada will soon have a woman leading one of its major banks?

“Well, let’s hope, huh?”