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Singapore

Record high for women on Singapore corporate boards

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  • Women’s representation on corporate boards in Singapore has reached a record high, with significant progress across SGX-listed companies, statutory boards, and charities.
  • Regulatory enhancements and voluntary targets have been key drivers in increasing gender diversity on boards.
  • Despite the progress, achieving gender parity in key leadership roles remains challenging, necessitating continued efforts from all stakeholders.

Women’s representation on corporate boards in Singapore has reached an all-time high. This achievement spans across Singapore Exchange (SGX)-listed companies, statutory boards, and charities, marking a pivotal moment in the journey towards gender parity in leadership roles.

According to the Council for Board Diversity’s Singapore Board Diversity Review, women’s participation on boards tripled to 23.7% by the end of 2023, up from 7.5% in 2013 among the top 100 SGX-listed companies by market capitalization. Statutory boards also saw a notable increase, with women’s participation reaching 32.7% in 2023, a nearly 10 percentage point rise from 2018. Charities, too, recorded their highest annual growth, with women holding 31% of board positions in the top 100 Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) by the end of 2023.

This progress is attributed to several factors, including regulatory enhancements and a growing global recognition of the value of board diversity. The Singapore Exchange (SGX) has implemented policies requiring board diversity disclosures, which took effect from January 2022. These policies, along with the revised Corporate Code of Governance, emphasize the importance of diversity in board composition. Additionally, a nine-year cap on independent director tenure, effective from January 2023, has further driven the appointment of new directors, including women.

Minister for Social and Family Development, Masagos Zulkifli, highlighted the strategic importance of gender-diverse boards, stating, “The progress in women’s participation on boards across the people, public, and private sectors reflects a growing recognition of the importance of having gender-diverse boards. It is not just a metric of good governance, but of strategic decision-making – giving equal opportunity to all who meet the requisites, and thus tapping a wider talent pool. This is critical as more than ever before, it takes diverse perspectives, skill sets, and experience to tackle the complex issues of the future”.

The increase in women’s representation is also evident in leadership roles. In 2023, women comprised 17% of all board chair and committee chair positions in the top 100 SGX-listed companies, up from 9% in 2018. Statutory boards and IPCs also saw more women in chair positions, reflecting a broader trend towards gender diversity in leadership.

Despite these gains, challenges remain. Achieving gender parity in key leadership roles continues to be difficult, and without substantial intervention, gender equality on corporate boards may not materialize until 2038. However, the steady progress in Singapore, driven by both regulatory measures and voluntary targets, offers a hopeful outlook.

The Council for Board Diversity has set ambitious targets to further this progress. For the top 100 SGX-listed companies, the goal is to achieve 25% women’s participation on boards by 2025 and 30% by 2030. Statutory boards and IPCs are encouraged to reach 30% as soon as possible. These targets, while voluntary, serve as attainable goals to motivate organizations to continue their efforts towards gender diversity.

The record high in women’s representation on Singapore corporate boards is a testament to the concerted efforts of various stakeholders. As organizations continue to recognize the strategic value of diverse perspectives, the momentum towards gender parity in leadership is expected to accelerate, paving the way for more inclusive and effective governance.

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