The formation of a new council to get more women on the boards of organisations marks another step towards gender equality in Singapore. In the last four years, the proportion of women on the boards of Singapore's top 100 listed companies doubled to 15 per cent. The Council for Board Diversity, consisting of 20 members - nine men and 11 women - used to be known as the Diversity Action Committee, which was formed in 2014 and focused on SGX-listed companies. It will enjoy expanded scope to look into female representation on the boards of organisations in the public sector and people sector, which includes non-governmental organisations, voluntary welfare organisations and charities.
Much as with income disparities, the low proportion of women on company boards militates against the concept of a meritocratic society. It is implausible that the 15 per cent figure, while constituting a vast improvement over previous data, is all that is possible in a country where women have moved forward with men in education and at work. In a 2014 United Nations report, the Republic was ranked 13th out of 155 countries, making it the top Asian country for gender equality. Other statistics are sobering. For example, the World Economic Forum has ranked Singapore fifth out of Asia's 10 most gender-equal countries, after the Philippines, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Laos. The report also notes, however, that Singapore saw "a notable increase in female labour-force participation and continued a trend now approaching near-parity in technical and professional workers". In the vanguard fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, degree courses in sciences and architecture have seen more female students than men in the last decade, although women remain under-represented in IT and engineering courses. While gender equality has not been achieved, it is a goal that society takes seriously.