Board diversity council expands scope to include female representation in organisations

Board diversity council expands scope to include female representation in organisations

The Diversity Action Committee will widen its scope from January - from increasing representation of women on boards of Singapore Exchange-listed companies to including organisations in the people and public sectors. Brandon Tanoto reports.

SINGAPORE: The Diversity Action Committee (DAC) will widen its scope from January, from increasing representation of women on boards of Singapore Exchange (SGX)-listed companies to include organisations in the people and public sectors.

This was announced by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in a media release on Wednesday (Jan 16).

The committee will also be re-named the Council for Board Diversity and have President Halimah Yacob as its patron.

The DAC was established by MSF in August 2014 after a study initiated by then-Minister of State for Social and Family Development Halimah Yacob showed that Singapore's business sector trailed behind other countries in terms of women on boards.

It has since worked towards SGX-listed companies increasing the number of women on their boards.

The new council will be chaired by Mr Loh Boon Chye, SGX's chief executive officer and Mrs Mildred Tan, chairman of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre.

It has 20 members - nine men and 11 women - and will serve for a two-year term from January 2019 to December 2020.

The new council aims to promote a "sustainable increase" in the number of women on boards of listed companies, statutory boards and non-profit organisations by a number of measures.

These include engaging stakeholders on the appointment of women onto boards, undertaking activities to raise public awareness of the importance of board diversity, working to develop a pipeline of board-ready women and working with the Government on policies that impact women on boards.

"Increasing women on boards should be a priority for organisations as this introduces fresh perspectives and enhances corporate governance," said Mdm Halimah. "Singapore, being a global financial and business hub, is natural ground for having a big pool of highly capable board-ready women."

She noted that in the past four years, women's membership on corporate boards for top 100 primary-listed companies on SGX has doubled.

"This is good progress and I commend companies which had taken steps to enhance their board diversity that aligns with company strategy and risk management," she said. "It is only timely to include organisations in the people and public sectors in the next phase of development."

READ: More firms with at least one woman in senior role but gender diversity still low: Survey

Wednesday's announcement comes as the proportion of women on boards of the top 100 primary-listed companies on the SGX rose to 15.2 per cent as at December 2018, from 13.1 per cent in the previous year, according to the latest DAC findings. 

Meanwhile, the proportion of all-male boards in top 100 companies fell to 25 per cent in 2018 from 32 per cent the previous year. For all listed companies, 48 per cent had all-male boards as at December 2018, a slight decrease from the 50 per cent at the end of 2017.

However, new board seats continue to be mostly filled by men. Among first-time directors for top 100 companies in 2018, 30 per cent were women and 70 per cent men, similar to the previous year.

For all listed companies, 14 per cent of first-time directors were women and 86 per cent men.

Table showing international comparisons for proportion of women on boards
(Table: Diversity Action Committee Report)

Internationally, Singapore still trails other countries in terms of female board representation according to figures from the DAC, coming behind countries including France (42.5 per cent female representation), Norway (42.1 per cent), Malaysia (19.2 per cent) and India (15.7 per cent) - though some of these countries have quotas for female representation on boards.

Source: CNA/nc(mn)

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