Singapore’s Diversity Action Committee (DAC) announced on 13 February that the appointment of women directors had seen a 20% increase in 2017 - moving up to 13.1% of all directorships for the top 100 primary-listed companies on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) by market capitalisation. This is the highest increase over the past three years - after 10.9% in 2016, 9.5% in 2015 and 8.6% women on board in 2014.

Of these top 100 companies, 27 have at least 20% women on their boards, which is the first level of the triple-tier target of 20% that DAC aims to achieve by 2020. All-male boards are reduced to 32%, compared to 38% in 2016, 41% in 2015 and 46% in 2014. Two more companies have added women to their boards in January this year, further reducing the number of all-male boards to 30%.

Other key findings from DAC as of 31 December 2017 included:

  • Number of women board appointments is small but encouraging Top 100 companies continued to maintain about 18% of board appointments being women. The number is 13% for all SGX-listed companies.
  • New board seats still mostly filled by men About 40% of board directors appointed onto boards of Top 100 companies as well as all SGX-listed companies over the past three years go to first-time directors. However, most seats were filled by men (almost 70% for Top 100 companies, and more than 80% for all SGX-listed companies).
  • Fewer all-male boards 32% of top 100 company boards are all-male. This a reduction from 38% in 2016. 50% of boards of SGX-listed companies are all-male, a reduction from 53% in 2016.
  • Opportunity for board renewal with nine-year rule for director independence 41% of top 100 companies have at least one independent director that had served at least nine years - with 101 such directorships. Similarly, 45% of SGX-listed companies have at least one independent director serving nine years of more; there are 648 of such directorships.

DAC chairman Loh Boon Chye, said: “The numbers are encouraging. Boards of leading companies are paying attention to the benefits that diversity brings. With our large companies leading the way, DAC is ambitious for the other companies too, to make appointments that will strengthen their boards and the resilience of their strategies.”

“The proposed revisions to the Code of Corporate Governance (CG Code) pay specific attention to board diversity and gender is one of its important aspects. Disclosure of how companies achieve their diversity policy will add to investor appreciation and reinforce interest in following a company’s progress in governance in addition to its business strategy. Companies acting decisively now will stand us in good stead to achieve DAC’s triple-tier target of increasing women’s participation on boards to 20% by 2020, 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030,” he added.

The top 100 companies will exceed 20% collectively when every board has at least two women members. This would add about 100 women appointments.

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Meanwhile, the proposed revisions on board independence in the Singapore GC Code provide an opportunity for boards to review their composition in line with their strategic gaps. DAC believes that there is considerable room to introduce diversity in these board renewals. Currently close to half (41%) of the top 100 companies have at least one independent director that have served nine years or more.

There are 101 of such directorships that need to be renewed should the nine-year rule become mandatory if it is moved to become a SGX Listing Rule. DAC’s analysis of director data found that over the past three years, first-time directors made up 40% of all appointments. Of these, men made up more than 80% of the first-timers. With the CG Code calling for more focus on diversity, DAC believes that there is room for more women in these first-time appointments too.

DAC is an 18-member Committee comprising corporate leaders and professionals from the business, private and public sectors, formed to address the under-representation of women on boards of companies in Singapore. It researches and provides authoritative statistics on women representation on boards of SGX-listed companies.

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