Women continue to be under-represented on boards of SGX-listed companies. The study by the Diversity Task Force regarding women on boards (DTF) reveals that only 8.3% of director positions (i.e. directorships) are held by women. The DTF was formed in late 2012 to examine the state of gender diversity on boards in Singapore, as well as its impact on corporate performance and governance.
The findings are based on an analysis of data and information from annual reports, survey, dialogue sessions and in-depth interviews. About 300 SGX-listed companies participated in the survey. The DTF is currently consulting stakeholders on its findings and recommendations. It targets to release its report and recommendations by late April 2014.
Mrs Mildred Tan, Chairperson of the DTF, said “The DTF is very pleased with the robustness of our study findings. I would like to once again thank the Chairpersons, Board Directors and CEOs who participated in our study. The DTF has obtained very meaningful insights into the state of gender diversity in Singapore. With this, we look to formulate sound recommendations to bring about changes that will benefit Singapore and our companies.”
As at Apr 2013, women only hold 8.3% of directorships in SGX-listed companies. This is below countries such as Malaysia (8.7%); China (9%); Hong Kong (9.4%); Australia (17.3%); and United Kingdom (19%) . The percentage of all-male boards among SGX-listed companies is 57%.
There is low awareness about the importance and benefits of gender diversity among SGX-listed companies, and little is being done to improve gender diversity.
Among the companies surveyed, only 33% agree that gender diversity at board level is important. Overall, companies are not yet convinced of the benefits of gender diversity on boards.
Little is being done to improve the situation. While 55% of companies say they ensure transparent criteria in recruiting directors, only 12% of companies include boardroom diversity on the agenda of board meetings; 6% measure the achievement of board gender diversity objectives; and 5% review annually board gender diversity objectives and the progress in achieving these objectives.
Gender diversity on boards of SGX-listed companies is improving but at a slow rate. Timely intervention is needed. Compared to past years, there is a gradual upward trend of women being appointed to boards, as seen in the higher proportion of female directors in younger age brackets. At the current rate of growth, the DTF estimates that women will go from holding 8.3% directorships in 2013, to about only 12% in 2020 and about 17% in 2030.
There are multiple causes for the low gender diversity, and these causes are complex and inter-linked. Part of the challenge relates to demand factors, ranging from the lack of awareness about the importance of gender diversity, to over-reliance on personal networks to source for directors and looking for candidates with past board experience. Another challenge relates to supply factors, where some women who are capable of serving on boards do not do so due to a mix of reasons such as family responsibilities or being uncertain of how their skill sets fit the needs of the boards.
Annex A – Fact Sheet on the DTF
Annex B – Detailed Findings of DTF’s Study