Women's representation in Singapore boardrooms improving, but pace of change too slow: Committee

About 9.7 per cent of board seats in SGX-listed companies were held by women as of end June 2016.
About 9.7 per cent of board seats in SGX-listed companies were held by women as of end June 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Diversity Action Committee (DAC) said on Wednesday (Oct 5) it had presented its report on hastening women's representation in boardrooms to Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

DAC said its report, which contains five key recommendations, urged local companies to raise gender diversity in their boardrooms at a quicker pace.

Failing to do so, it warned, could undermine Singapore's reputation as a "leading business hub with sound and exemplary governance".

As of end June this year, DAC said 9.7 per cent of board seats in Singapore Exchange (SGX)-listed companies were held by women.

While the figure has seen improvement since 2012, the committee stressed that the pace of change is too slow, and that Singapore is lagging behind.

The five recommendations it put forth:

  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to strengthen the Code of Corporate Governance, requiring listed companies to disclose their diversity policy (including gender), have self-set measurable objectives and measure progress made in achieving those objectives;
  • Companies should implement their diversity policy straightaway and disclose it in their annual reports, even before the Code is strengthened;
  • Shareholders and other market participants need to monitor progress and MAS to consider the need for stronger action if companies do not respond;
  • Companies to adopt best practices for board nomination and appointment;
  • Companies to develop their executive pipeline in order to increase the pool of women for board roles in the future.

"DAC firmly believes that increased requirements for transparency and accountability will spur companies to adopt a disciplined approach to diversifying their boards at faster pace," the committee said in a news release.

"Board nomination and appointment processes and growing the executive pipeline will support the acceleration."

 

Announcing that SGX CEO Loh Boon Chye would assume the DAC chairmanship next term, Mr Tan pledged that the Government will continue to support the committee.

He added: "Women bring with them different perspectives which can bring about more robust and dynamic governance in companies. These companies perform better, ultimately benefiting our economy as a whole."

Earlier this year, Singapore was ranked eighth (7.7 per cent) in a 2014 study of women's representation in Asia-Pacific boards. Australia placed first at 21.9 per cent.

The study, which examined the largest 100 publicly listed companies' 2014 annual reports in 10 Asia-Pacific economies, said that women were under-represented even though more female representation tended to be more profitable for firms.