Music Canada's Graham Henderson Talks 'Exhaustive' Gender Equity and Diversity Review at Playback

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Guntar Kravis
Graham Henderson

Graham Henderson, president and CEO of Music Canada, made good on his commitment from last year to promote diversity and equality within the trade organization by adding two women to their board, but importantly told his peers at Music Canada’s 2018 Playback year-in-review and dialogue just how it can be done — namely, change the by-laws and, if you’re a white man, be willing to step down.   

“Making Boards more gender inclusive can seem daunting and often targets are set deep into the future. Yet fully qualified women are available right now,” Henderson acknowledged to about 90 people — assembled for the afternoon event yesterday (Oct. 16) at Toronto’s The Great Hall — representing major labels, publishers, management companies, music conferences, associations, government orgs and more.    

Hiring outside advisors, Rob DeRooy and Debra Brown of Governance Solutions, for guidance, he called the “top to bottom” review of Music Canada’s governance “exhaustive.” 

The current board is comprised of the three major label presidents, Warner Music Canada’s Steve Kane, Sony Music  Entertainment Canada’s Shane Carter and Universal Music Canada’s Jeffrey Remedios — along with Henderson, who will no longer serve once the two women are confirmed at November’s board meeting. The move will take its gender balance “from zero to 40 percent women in a single year,” the CEO noted proudly.

“It would’ve been easy to say that Music Canada was boxed-in in terms of gender representation because the presidents of the member organizations are the board. We could have dodged the issue by pointing at by-laws. But we didn’t. By-laws can be changed and alternatives can be found,” he stressed. “We did both these things. 

“The answer to our situation was to implement a Diversity Policy and to change the by-laws, allowing us to expand the board by adding two independent directors — directors who are not men.”

He praised the three label presidents to being open to the change.

“Impediments to change often lurk just beneath the surface. Just one example for you to think about — many boards have no term limits. The lack of term limits entrenches the status quo. And who is the status quo? It is usually white and male. 

“Changing by-laws to impose term limits can be an important step. So can actually sit down with folks who represent the status quo and asking them if they might not consider stepping aside to make way for fresh faces.” 

Henderson used his experience as past chair of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Board — which in three years went from 17 men and 6 women to 10 men and 13 women — to tell the music industry members at Playback just what gender balance can mean to a board. 

“We said ‘No’ to a lot of very qualified men, but we said ‘Yes’ to many equally qualified women. And let me tell you this bluntly, the quality of conversation and decision making at that board has improved exponentially. We expect the same results here at Music Canada."


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