A new study suggests that while number of women on the boards of top Canadian companies is improving, there still is "significant work to be done."

The study by the Canadian Board Diversity Council shows women held 17.1 per cent of the positions on boards on the Financial Post 500 list.

The organization says that was up from 15.6 per cent in 2013 and reflects a pace of change of more than four times the average between 2001 and 2012.

However, the council says visible minorities and aboriginals on boards are at their lowest level since the survey began in 2010.

It says visible minorities hold only two per cent of board seats, aboriginals hold just 0.8 per cent of the seats and people with disabilities fill just 1.4 per cent.

women-business

Women make up less than a fifth of the board positions at Canadian corporations, a new report said Wednesday. (Reuters)

The council is calling on corporate boards to consider three board-ready diverse candidates for each open board seat. It also asks boards to replace at least one of every three retiring directors with a director of a diverse background.