More women on Singapore company boards a good thing

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu has called on regulators to act in support of gender diversity on boards.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a corporate governance forum on Friday, Ms Fu said the Monetary Authority of Singapore could perhaps include a new provision in the Code of Corporate Governance that would require companies to disclose their gender diversity policies

For example, she added, firms that do not have any female directors on their boards should explain why and disclose what they are doing to remedy the situation.

In her speech at the forum, Ms Fu had also chosen to highlight the issue of gender diversity on corporate boards.

Companies that have women on their boards of directors are often rewarded with better financial performance and gain access to a bigger pool of leadership talent, while also helping society to thrive.

Globally, women make up only 11 per cent of corporate boards even though they comprise 40 per cent of the workforce, she noted.

However, studies have shown that having women on the board exerts a positive influence on board behaviour and that companies with more female directors tend to reap higher earnings and stock prices.

"It may be that companies with diverse boards are more progressive, more responsive to change in general and thus perform better," Ms Fu said.

"Or it could be that a diverse board leads to better, more robust decision-making."

In a world with an ageing workforce and a high competition for talent, companies cannot overlook half the population as a source of potential leaders, she added.

And having a diverse board signals to female employees and potential recruits that the company is committed to developing female talent.

Furthermore, Ms Fu said, women in Singapore, having been well-educated, aspire to have a meaningful career.

With better sharing of responsibilities in the family and a more conducive and supportive workplace, women can have both family and career.

Companies that adopted family-friendly policies have found that it improves workplace morale, productivity and talent retention, she noted.