Women's groups to push for at least 20% of female directors on boards by 2020: Grace Fu

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said more can be done to strengthen gender diversity in corporate leadership in listed companies and statutory boards.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said more can be done to strengthen gender diversity in corporate leadership in listed companies and statutory boards.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - More can be done to strengthen gender diversity in corporate leadership here, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Thursday (March 23).

Ms Fu said that to this end, the PAP Women's Wing, along with BoardAgender, an initiative of the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations, are making recommendations jointly to the Monetary Authority of Singapore to push greater gender diversity in boards.

"We are advocating that a 20-20 target - at least 20 per cent of female directors on boards by 2020 - be adopted by listed companies and statutory boards," noted Ms Fu. This would be a big step up from 9.7 per cent currently.

She said the PAP Women's Wing and the SCWO are also calling on the MAS to make the "comply or explain" disclosure policy in board diversity a mandatory one.

Such disclosure require companies that do not meet the guidelines to step out to explain their deviations.

The Diversity Action Committee is also making a similar recommendation to the MAS to make it a requirement in the Code of Corporate Governance for listed companies, Ms Fu said.

She was speaking at the launch of the final set of Corporate Governance Guide series for boards and board of committees here organised by the Singapore Institute of Directors.

Ms Fu noted that across the SGX listed companies, women hold 9.7 per cent of board seats, up from 9.1 per cent in the previous year.

This, however, pales in comparison to women's representation in the workforce and in senior management ranks.

Citing examples, she said Starhub has one woman on their board, Olam International has two, while firms like Genting Singapore, Global Logistics Properties, Golden Agri-Resources and Wilmar International still have none.

Even in industries where the majority of customers and staff are female - such as food and beverage, household and personal products, consumer durables and apparel - many firms have all-male boards.

She said having women on their boards could help management better understand the perspectives of its female customers and workforce, and gain deeper knowledge and engagement of its stakeholders.

"That said, this is not about giving preferential treatment to a specific gender - merit still comes first. But we can and must do more to strengthen the gender diversity in corporate leadership," Ms Fu observed.