For first time, majority of Singapore-listed companies have at least one female director

Women's share of board seats on Singapore-listed companies continued to grow at a steady pace in the first half of 2018.
Women's share of board seats on Singapore-listed companies continued to grow at a steady pace in the first half of 2018.PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

SINGAPORE - The majority of Singapore-listed companies have at least one woman on their boards for the first time, with the largest companies leading the improvements in board gender diversity, according to latest data from the Diversity Action Committee (DAC).

The proportion of all-male boards slipped to 49 per cent as at end-June 2018, the first time the measurement has crossed below 50 per cent, according to the DAC, an advocacy group comprising prominent members of the Singapore business community. All-male boards and boards with at least one woman director were evenly split as at end-December 2017.

Women's share of board seats on Singapore-listed companies also continued to grow at a steady pace in the first half of 2018. Women occupied 11.2 per cent of board seats among Singapore-listed companies as at end-June, up from 10.8 per cent six months earlier and 10.3 per cent a year ago.

Despite the improvement, gender diversity among Singapore-listed companies remains short of the DAC's target of achieving 20 per cent women's participation by 2020. That target steps up to 25 per cent by 2025, and 30 per cent by 2030.

The DAC has focused its efforts on getting larger companies to lead the way, and in that respect it has found some success.

Women took 14.7 per cent of boards seats among the 100 largest companies by market capitalisation, up from 13.1 per cent as at end-2017 and from 12.2 per cent a year earlier to set a pace ahead of the rest of the market.

Just 27 of the 100 largest companies had all-male boards, fewer than the 32 six months ago.

"If the pace is sustained, the Top 100 companies will be the first group of companies to achieve DAC's first-tier target of 20 per cent women on boards by 2020, leading the way for other companies to join in," DAC chairman and Singapore Exchange chief executive Loh Boon Chye said in a statement.

 
 

The latest numbers suggest that companies are making an effort to find women to fill board seats and not simply appointing friends and family of insiders. The proportion of women among independent directors in the 100 largest companies has increased to 16.1 per cent as at end-June, from 14.3 per cent in December and 12.6 per cent the year before.

Looking ahead, regulatory changes could support a faster pace of change. Proposed changes to the Code of Corporate Governance will include a requirement that companies set targets on board diversity and report on their progress in meeting those targets.

A proposal to impose a nine-year term limit for independent directors could also create vacancies that could be filled by women. The DAC said that 101 independent directors from 48 of the 100 largest companies have served at least nine years. Among all Singapore-listed companies, half of them have at least one independent director, or 705 independent directors altogether, who have served at least nine years.