Singapore firms slow to enforce board diversity

by Adelle Chua13 Feb 2018

The percentage of women to total directors on the boards of SGX-listed companies increased to 10.8% in 2017 from 9.9% in 2016 and 9.5% in 2015.

Among the top 100 companies, the number is higher at 13.1%, up from 10.9% the previous year, The Straits Times reported.

Data from the Diversity Action Committee (DAC) showed that the proportion of all-male boards went down to 50% from 55% three years ago.

“The numbers are encouraging. Boards of leading companies are paying attention to the benefits that diversity brings,” said DAC chairman and head of the SGX, Loh Boon Chye.

“With our large companies leading the way, DAC is ambitious for the other companies too, to make appointments that will strengthen their boards and the resilience of their strategies."

New board seats, however, were still mostly filled by men: 70% for the top 100 primary-listed firms and more than 80% for all SGX-listed companies.

The DAC said proposed revisions to the Code of Corporate Governance offer opportunities for greater diversity in boards.

The revised code is expected to be launched second half of this year.

"Gender is one of its important aspects,” Loh said. “Disclosure of how companies achieve their diversity policy will add to investor appreciation and reinforce interest in following a company's progress in governance in addition to its business strategy.”

The DAC aims to increase women’s participation on boards to 20% by 2020, 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

Female representation in boards is varied in Asia, with female directors in Malaysia having 19.2% of board seats and Hong Kong with 13.3%. China, Japan and South Korea are seen as least diverse.

Globally, Norway and France lead at 42% among listed firms, followed by UK (27.6%), Australia (26.1%) and the US (21%).


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