Proportion of women on boards of Singapore-listed firms still dismal

Female representation in Singapore's corporate boardroom clicked higher in 2012, albeit at a continued anaemic space, according to a new study.

Only 7.9 per cent of all board directors of Singapore-listed firms were women in 2012, up marginally from 7.3 per cent in 2011 and 6.9 per cent in 2010.

The city state's scorecard in terms of female directors lags behind its regional peers, namely Indonesia (11.6 per cent), Hong Kong (9.4 per cent) and Malaysia (8.7 per cent).

The report card on gender diversity launched today is an annual publication by the NUS Business School's Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO) and BoardAgender.

The study, which is in its third edition, also presented a strong business case to raise the bar on women's participation in boards.

For the first time, the report uncovered that gender diversity in boardrooms results in better financial performance and governance.

Particularly noteworthy is the finding that the appointment of a new female director to a board was usually followed by improved return on assets and return on equity over the next three years.

Yet, the female board participation numbers remain dismal. Singapore has one of the highest proportion of all-male boards at 58.2 per cent, slightly down from 60 per cent in 2011.

"It s really incredible that most boards here don't have women on boards and those that do, mostly have only one woman," said NUS Business School associate professor and CGIO associate director Marleen Dieleman, a co-author of the study.