Women directors make up just 10.2% of Asia Pacific corporate boards

Women make up 10.2 per cent of all directors in the 2014 study by Korn Ferry and NUS Business School's Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations.
Women make up 10.2 per cent of all directors in the 2014 study by Korn Ferry and NUS Business School's Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Women are under represented in Asia Pacific boards even though more female representation tends to be more profitable for firms, according to a survey released on Tuesday (April 19).

Women make up 10.2 per cent of all directors in the 2014 study by people and organisational advisory Korn Ferry and the National University of Singapore Business School's Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO).

The study examined the largest 100 publicly listed companies' 2014 annual reports in 10 Asia Pacific economies. Australia placed first at 21.9 per cent, followed by New Zealand at 13.4 per cent and China at 12.9 per cent.

Singapore placed eighth with 7.7 per cent of women board members, above Japan at 3.3 per cent and South Korea at 2.6 per cent.

Research has shown that firms with at least 10 per cent of female board members delivered a 14.9 per cent return on equity in 2014 compared with just 12.6 per cent for those without, the survey noted.

Only Australia, India and Malaysia showed substantial improvement from 2013, the survey said.

In Malaysia, the percentage of females on boards grew 4.2 percentage points to 12.5 per cent. In Australia, the percentage of female board members rose 3.3 percentage points to 21.9 per cent.

As a whole, Asia Pacific still falls far behind benchmark economies like the United States and Britain, the survey said.

Ms Alicia Yi, managing director for board and CEO services at Korn Ferry said: "In Asia Pacific, we have a long way to go when it comes to fully embracing diversity. Thus, a stronger push is needed to bring corporate boards to the next level in the region."

In February, a report from Singapore's Diversity Action Committee (DAC) said that the percentage of women directors on Singapore-listed corporate board rose to 9.5 per cent in 2015 from 8.8 per cent in 2014. In absolute figures, that's 479 women directors in 2015 from 448 in 2014.

jkoh@sph.com.sg