Share of women on boards inches past 10%; larger firms making more progress

Office workers cross a street in Singapore's central business district on April 27.
Office workers cross a street in Singapore's central business district on April 27.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - More than 10 per cent of the board seats at Singapore-listed companies are now held by women, 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 on Thursday (July 13).

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.

DAC's study found that 52 per cent of SGX-listed companies still have all-male boards, about the same as last year.

Women made 12 per cent of all board appointments in the first half of 2017, unchanged from 2016. 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.

"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. Appointing one woman each would get the Top 100 companies to 20 per cent."

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.