SINGAPORE - The proportion of women appointed directors to the boards of large listed companies in Singapore reached a record high in 2022, according to a study released on Thursday.
Women made up 36 per cent of all director appointments to the top 100 companies on the Singapore Exchange – the highest percentage since 2013 when such data was first collected.
In 2021, female board appointments stood at 23 per cent.
The latest study by the Council for Board Diversity, which covered around 1,300 organisations, also found that 21 per cent of women who joined the boards of the top 100 listed companies in 2022 were first-time directors.
Male first-time directors formed 26 per cent of all boardroom appointees in 2022.
This is an improvement in gender diversity from 2021, when women first-time directors made up 14 per cent of board appointees and men, 45 per cent. First-time directors refer to those with no prior board experience at a listed company.
Companies that appointed first-time women directors in 2022 included property developer City Developments, food and beverage giant Fraser and Neave, luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass and investment holding company Jardine Cycle & Carriage.
The council tracks gender representation on boards of the top 100 listed companies by market capitalisation, the top 100 Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs), and statutory boards.
It noted that the record appointment of women directors in 2022 “may have been influenced by companies’ responding to the new Singapore Exchange Regulation rule”. The rule requires a company to disclose the substance of its board diversity policy, with targets, plans and timelines, progress and how the board composition suits its business strategy. It applies to annual reports for financial years starting in 2022.
Although women are steadily increasing their presence in boardrooms here, there is still room for improvement. The latest study showed that Singapore’s statutory boards had the highest female participation on boards at 31.4 per cent, followed by IPCs at 29.3 per cent and listed firms at 21.5 per cent.
The numbers are within reach of or have already met a council target, which states that the top 100 companies are encouraged to have 30 per cent of women on their boards by the end of 2030.
The long-term aim is to have what are called gender-balanced boards – 40 per cent to 60 per cent of men or women.
Multiple studies, including those published by the Social Sciences Research Network and the Journal of Business Ethics, have stated that a critical mass of 30 per cent female representation on boards enables companies to fully reap the benefits of gender diversity.
The council’s findings note that 51 per cent of boards at the top 100 IPCs and 46 per cent of statutory boards in Singapore met this benchmark, while only 26 per cent of the top 100 companies did so.
Only 7 per cent of top listed firms had gender-balanced boards. It was 20 per cent for statutory boards and 22 per cent for the top 100 IPCs.
Mrs Mildred Tan, co-chair of the Council for Board Diversity and chair of Tote Board Singapore and of the Singapore University of Social Sciences board of trustees, said board diversity is a “growing necessity for organisations to thrive in today’s environment and is achievable when there is a concerted effort to make it a priority”.
The issue of board diversity has also been raised over the years by non-profit organisations such as United Women Singapore and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, whose BoardAgender initiative has been highlighting the need for gender balance in businesses and boards since 2011.
Still, there is more room for women to chair boards. According to the study, only 9 per cent of the boards of the top 100 companies are chaired by women. It is 22 per cent for statutory boards and 16 per cent for the top 100 IPCs.