Women's share of board seats hits a high of 10.3%

Data by Diversity Action Committee on S'pore listed firms shows larger firms making more progress

Women's share of board seats among Singapore-listed companies reached 10.3 per cent as at June 30, the highest since data collection began, and up 0.4 percentage points from last year, according to new data.

Among the 100 largest listed firms, 12.2 per cent of the directors are women, up from 10.9 per cent six months ago, the Diversity Action Committee (DAC) said yesterday.

The DAC was formed in 2014 to address the under-representation of women on boards of Singapore-listed companies. The aim is to have a 20 per cent share for women by 2020, then 25 per cent by 2025, and finally, 30 per cent by 2030.

Of the 100 largest primary-listed companies, 24 have boards where women hold at least one-fifth of the seats, while 40 are "gender-diverse" with fewer than a fifth of board seats held by female directors. Another 36 firms have all-male boards.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

DAC's study found that 52 per cent of all SGX-listed companies still have all-male boards, about the same as last year. Women made up 12 per cent of all board appointments in the first half of this year, unchanged from last year.

But larger firms are adding women directors at a faster pace compared with the rest of the market, with women making up 22 per cent of appointments in large companies.

DIVERSITY AIM

We strongly encourage the remaining 76 companies who have not yet achieved 20 per cent women's participation to act.

'' DAC CHAIRMAN LOH BOON CHYE, on getting large firms to increase the proportion of women holding board appointments.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said he was encouraged by DAC's latest update. "Our companies should cast their net wider and appoint more women directors with diverse skills and expertise. This should help enhance board effectiveness."

Some female directors who have been appointed this year include Ms Jessica Tan, who was made independent director at CapitaLand Commercial Trust and Sats, Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, who became an independent director at Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust, and Ms Loh Woon Yen, made non-executive director of Unusual Limited.

"It is encouraging to see our larger companies taking the lead in increasing diversity by appointing women on their boards," said DAC chairman Loh Boon Chye.

"We strongly encourage the remaining 76 companies who have not yet achieved 20 per cent women's participation to act. "

Companies need stronger boards better equipped to tackle an increasingly volatile environment, said Mr Loh, who is also the chief executive of the Singapore Exchange.

"In order to achieve this, companies need to get the best talent available. We do have a growing pool of qualified female potential directors that is under-tapped," he added.

The DAC also urged boards to be open to appointing more first-time female directors. Its study found that over the past 21/2 years, more than 80 per cent of first-time directors - who made up 40 per cent of all new appointments - were male.

The DAC also urged companies to appoint directors with more diverse skill sets. Its study found that directors appointed by the top 100 primary-listed companies in the first half of the year were predominantly those with "core" skillsets such as finance and strategy, reflecting the profile of existing directors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2017, with the headline 'Women's share of board seats hits a high of 10.3%'. Print Edition | Subscribe