More women on boards of Singapore companies but numbers still below targets

All statutory boards also now have women on their board of directors, and two companies have boards made up of 50 per cent women directors.
All statutory boards also now have women on their board of directors, and two companies have boards made up of 50 per cent women directors.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Slightly more women participated in boards of the largest listed companies, statutory boards and charitable institutions in Singapore in the first half of this year, the Council for Board Diversity said in a statement on Friday (Sept 3).

The 100 largest primary-listed companies on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) saw the proportion of women participating on boards increase slightly to 18 per cent in the first half of this year from 17.6 per cent as at Dec 31 last year, while statutory boards posted a rise to 28.8 per cent from 27.5 per cent.

All statutory boards also now have women on their board of directors, and two companies - Singapore Post and Far East Hospitality Trust - have boards made up of 50 per cent women directors.

The overall numbers, however, still fall short of targets set by the council. The top 100 companies, with escalating targets of 25 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030, have already missed their 2020 target of 20 per cent. Statutory boards have targets set at 30 per cent "as soon as possible".

Furthermore, while statutory boards as a group are hitting close to 30 per cent, 25 of the 65 statutory boards still have women representing less than 20 per cent of their boards as at end-June.

Meanwhile, institutions of public character (IPCs), which are charity organisations that can receive tax-deductible donations, saw women participation fall slightly to 28.1 per cent in the first half of this year from 28.8 per cent as at December last year, although they remain close to their target of 30 per cent "as soon as possible".

The council noted that the top 100 IPCs previously had the highest representation of women directors. It added that although the decline in proportion is "not particularly significant", it is a move in the opposite direction.

Nevertheless, the council sees the overall targets as achievable, noting that the top 100 companies need 17 more women directors to reach last year's target, with statutory boards requiring 11 more and IPCs needing 26 to each hit their 30 per cent targets.

Mr Loh Boon Chye, co-chair of the council and chief executive of SGX, said: "If organisations with no or few women on their boards take decisive action to look beyond the typical director profile and seek out worthy candidates from a wider pool that includes both genders, they would certainly be able to find women with new insights and experience that could add value to their board."

The council also noted that the composition of the group of top 100 companies had changed due to a revision in market capitalisation. Six new entrants have on average only 6 per cent women directors, compared with the 15 per cent for companies leaving the group, and three out of the six have all-male boards.

Additionally, while a record two-thirds of the appointments to the top 100 companies in the first half were first-time directors, the council said the number of men outnumbered women three to one. Out of the 10 companies appointing first-time women directors, all but two of the women appointed were independent directors.

The council was established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development in 2019 to promote a sustained increase in women on boards of listed companies, statutory boards and IPCs.