More can be done to boost female representation in Singapore boardrooms

More can be done to boost female representation in Singapore boardrooms

Women's representation on the executive boards of organisations have increased but the pace at which this is occurring can still be improved, according to just-released Diversity Action Committee's (DAC) report.

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An empty executive boardroom. (File photo: Work Central Offices)

SINGAPORE: Women's representation on the executive boards of organisations have increased but the pace at which this is occurring can still be improved.

This is according to the Diversity Action Committee's (DAC) report which was presented to the Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, on Wednesday (Oct 5).

In its report, the DAC said board diversity remained a critical element for better and more transparent corporate governance.

The committee noted that women's representation on executive boards hit 9.7 per cent by the end of June this year, an increase from 8 per cent in 2012. However, this figure still lags behind other developed countries. There is also a gap between the proportion of women sitting on boards and the 21.7 per cent of senior management positions held by women, it showed.

In addition, out of the 37 per cent of board appointments that were first-time board members, only 6 per cent were women.

Health Management International Lead Independent Director Annie Koh said this could be because men in the nomination committee had the tendency to think of other men they knew when the time came to refresh the board.

Mr Tan said that while "we have to acknowledge there has been some progress", "the pace of change is really not where I feel where it ought to be ... it should be a lot faster".

The report said that as a leading business hub, Singapore must do more to stay ahead of the competition in board diversity. It made several recommendations in this respect, including requiring listed companies to disclose their diversity policy and objectives, adopt a set of best practices for board nomination and appointment as well as develop their executive pipeline to increase the pool of women for board roles in the future.

However, it stopped short of recommending regulatory quotas. "It's not until we see stagnation or until we see the business-led initiatives are not good enough, that we need to think about (whether there) are other ways to grow the number of women on boards," DAC Chairman Magnus Bocker said.

Mr Tan expressed his support for the DAC's recommendations and urged companies to consider them to raise women's representation on boards.

"Women bring with them different perspectives which can bring about more robust and dynamic governance in companies. These companies perform better, ultimately benefiting our economy as a whole," he said.

Human Capital Leadership Institute Chief Executive Officer Wong Su-Yen, who also holds positions on four boards, said companies could play a bigger role to groom women for board positions and to think of this as a "talent development opportunity".

"Many corporates shy away from this, but in fact for selected leaders it may actually add to their expertise and contribution to their home company," Ms Wong said.

Source: CNA/am

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