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Singapore Government

Diversity Task Force to Launch Survey on Gender Diversity on Boards and in Senior Management

Diversity Task Force to Launch Survey on Gender Diversity on Boards and in Senior Management

Published On
11 Jul 2013

The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) will soon be launching a survey on gender diversity on boards and in senior management with the support of Singapore Exchange (SGX), Singapore Institute of Directors (SID), BoardAgender1 and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). The survey is targeted at CEOs of SGX-listed companies and statutory boards. It is part of a study by the Diversity Task Force (DTF), which was formed to examine the state of gender diversity on boards and in senior management in Singapore, and its impact on corporate performance and governance. The DTF is expected to produce a report with recommendations to the Government and businesses by early 2014.

The Task Force comprises industry leaders from the private and people sectors. Chairing the DTF is Mrs Mildred Tan, Managing Director of Ernst & Young Advisory. DTF Members are Ms Yeo Lian Sim, Chief Regulatory & Risk Officer, SGX and Council Member, SID; Mr Patrick Ang, Deputy Managing Director, Rajah and Tann LLP; Mr Koh Juan Kiat, Executive Director, SNEF; Mrs Laura Hwang, President of Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation and Co-Chair of BoardAgender; and Ms Junie Foo, Co-Chair of BoardAgender. The Office for Women’s Development (OWD) under the MSF is Secretariat to the DTF.

The DTF was initiated by Mdm Halimah Yacob, Speaker of Parliament, during her term of office as Minister of State (MSF). The move was prompted by the growing concern that women in Singapore continue to be under-represented on boards (see Annex) and in top-level senior management positions despite being highly-educated.

Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Chan Chun Sing said, “We are proud of our women leaders' contributions in many areas of our nation's achievements. They will continue to shape the future of our nation as community leaders, family members, and in the private sector and public service. However women representation on boards of companies can be further strengthened. Hence, it is good to see leaders from the private, public and people sectors coming together in this Diversity Task Force to enable more women to take up positions on corporate boards.”

Speaking at a SNEF event, Mdm Halimah Yacob said, “Our women have achieved so much and they can certainly contribute to better the performance of companies and organisations they represent. From a very pragmatic viewpoint, with the shortage of talent in Singapore, we should really examine whether there are systemic barriers impeding the appointment of women onto boards, how these impediments can be removed and how women can be better supported.”

She added, “If there are really good reasons, such as the scarcity of qualified, capable women, I would not be too worried about the lack of women on boards. But we know that this is not the case. We really need to do more to expand the space for women to contribute to our economy and society. It is not so much an issue of gender diversity or women’s rights but rather what companies and by extension society are losing out on by not tapping on the potential of women.”

Mrs Mildred Tan, DTF Chairperson, pointed out, “Many studies, including by EY, have shown that having a more diverse and balanced board makes good business sense. Women can bring fresh and diverse skills sets, experiences and perspectives to male-dominated boardrooms. We also need to ensure that decisions made in the boardrooms reflect the realities that we live in, including the rising incomes, purchasing power and decision-making power that women now have— it is about making more holistic and balanced decisions. To this end, the DTF will recommend strategies that companies can adopt to achieve a more balanced board representation and senior management. We hope that CEOs will participate in the study to provide their insights on this important issue.”

According to EY’s Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders report, although women account for around 48% of the overall public sector workforce, they represent less than 20% of public sector leadership across the G20. Only four G20 countries have a-third or more women in leadership roles across the public sector. Canada ranked first place on the Index with 45% women leaders, followed by Australia (37%), the UK (35%) and South Africa (33%). A separate look at the statistics for Singapore showed that Singapore comes close, with women comprising 28.6% of Permanent Secretaries.

Mr Max Loh, EY Managing Partner, Asean and Singapore, shared, “In our globalizing world, diversity is crucial to delivering more effective government, and increased economic and business competitiveness. Most governments are aware of the benefits of promoting a more balanced gender mix. While diverse teams are proven to stimulate innovation and new ways of problem-solving, there is an increasing acknowledgment that much work remains to be done before leadership ranks become truly representative of the societies in which they operate and serve.”

11 July 2013

1 An outreach arm of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations

Media Reports:

120713 ST Gender ceiling in boardrooms 'cause for concern'.pdf (The Straits Times, 12 July) *

120713 BT SNEF to do survey on women in top posts.pdf (The Business Times, 12 July) **

New survey will examine gender diversity on boards (TODAY, 12 July)

SNEF launches survey to examine gender diversity on companies, boards (Channel NewsAsia, 11 July)

Survey of gender diversity on boards and in senior management to be conducted (938Live, 11 July)

* Source:The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission

** Source:The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission

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