Even against the corporate world’s dismal track record on bringing gender parity to the boardroom, the all-male board of Restaurant Brands International seems like a vestige from a bygone era. But in Canada, where prime minister Justin Trudeau famously explained last November that half his cabinet would be composed of women “because it’s 2015,” a 100% male board seems especially out of place.
Ontario-based Restaurant Brands was formed in the 2014 merger of Burger King, the US-based fast-food brand, and Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee-and-donuts chain. As Bloomberg noted in a story on June 8, none of the three women on the Tim Hortons board joined the board of the combined company.
This didn’t sit well with Restaurant Brands shareholder Fred Pinto, the head of OceanRock Investments in Vancouver. He submitted a proposal (p. 68) that the company set out a formal diversity policy and create a clear path for women to join the board and senior levels of management.
But on June 9, their fellow shareholders rejected the proposal, according to a report in The Canadian Press.
The company did agree, ahead of the proxy vote, to direct its nominating and corporate governance committee to consider diverse candidates when selecting new board members. But that’s a far stretch from the transparency OceanRock was seeking on behalf of investors as to the company’s efforts on the issue.
OceanRock’s proposal noted that the nominating and corporate governance committee “consists entirely of members of Burger King’s former board of directors, and that as an independent company prior to the merger with Tim Hortons, Burger King “had no women on its board of directors either. We therefore believe that the Board needs to adopt a more formal and systematic approach to improving diversity in its ranks.”
The company insisted that its current processes support board diversity. But there’s no evidence of that yet. Meanwhile, plenty of other big restaurant brands have started to reflect changing sentiment. There are women on the boards of Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Starbucks, for instance. That makes Burger King stand out like a sore thumb even next to its US-based peers—and it looks like that won’t be changing anytime soon.