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Women representation on boards of listcos, stat boards, charities reach record high in 2023: CBD

Jovi Ho
Jovi Ho • 4 min read
Women representation on boards of listcos, stat boards, charities reach record high in 2023: CBD
As at end-2023, 11% of the top 100 SGX-listed companies and 38% of all SGX-listed companies continue to maintain all-male boards. Photo: Bloomberg
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Women representation on boards reached a record high last year across Singapore-listed companies, statutory boards and charities, thanks in part to enhanced regulatory frameworks. 

This is according to the latest edition of the Singapore Board Diversity Review, an annual study on gender diversity conducted by the Council for Board Diversity (CBD), released on June 3.

Compared to a decade ago, the 100 largest Singapore-listed companies by market capitalisation tripled women’s participation on boards (WOB) to 23.7% last year.

At these top firms, women directors take on 17% of all board chair and audit, nominating and remuneration committee chair positions, up from 9% in 2018.

In accordance with Singapore Exchange S68 -

(SGX) rules, listed issuers have had to set a board diversity policy that addresses gender, skill and experience since 2022. Issuers must also describe the board diversity policy and details such as diversity targets, plans, timelines and progress in their annual reports.

First-time director appointments to SGX-listed companies — both men and women — grew significantly across the board in 2023, says CBD. “This rising trend reflects a growing willingness to embrace fresh thinking and new skills as Singapore’s talent pool of directors and board-ready leaders expands.”

See also: More than a quarter of top 100 SGX-listed issuers have board sustainability committees, up from just six in 2017: CBD

Meanwhile, Singapore’s statutory boards continued “rapid” WOB progress, says CBD, reaching 32.7% — a 10 percentage point increase from 2018.

Finally, the top 100 Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) recorded its highest annual growth in 2023 to reach 31% WOB after what CBD calls “years of slow progress”.

See also: Study finds 89% of SGX-listed issuers have board diversity policy but SGX RegCo says disclosures need more detail

Among the top organisations, 12 companies, 14 statutory boards and 23 IPCs have reached gender-balance with 40% to 60% women on their boards, says CBD. 

Half of the top 100 SGX-listed companies, statutory boards and IPCs exceeded their voluntary board gender diversity targets in 2023. 

All-male boards

While the board directorship landscape is visibly different compared to a decade ago, there remains some inertia and resistance to inclusive change, says CBD.

As at end-2023, 11% of the top 100 SGX-listed companies and 38% of all SGX-listed companies continue to maintain all-male boards. According to CBD, the majority of these companies have not had a woman director in the last decade. That said, this is a decline from 51% and 57% seen in 2013, respectively.

Of the 11 all-male boards from the top 100 names as at end-2023, Haw Par Corporation H02 -

has since appointed its first woman director in February: Jenny Lee Huey Jee, who, up till 2012, was vice president of endowment and institutional development at the National University of Singapore.

See also: ISCA, Council for Board Diversity sign MOU to improve support for Singapore’s board directors

In the charity sector, 4% of the top 100 IPC boards and 5% of all IPC boards remain exclusively male. There are no all-male boardrooms among Singapore’s statutory boards.

The latest edition of the study covered more than 1,360 organisations. The data review, spanning 2013 to 2023, was conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Finance Innovation (CSFI) at Nanyang Technological University.

“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,” says Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development. “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 on a wider talent pool.”

CBD reiterates its board gender diversity targets. For the top 100 listed companies, CBD has set the target at 20% by end-2020, 25% by end-2025 and 30% by end-2030. Statutory boards and IPCs should aim to reach 30% WOB as soon as possible, CBD adds.

These targets are completely voluntary and serve as attainable goals to encourage organisations to make progress on their board diversity journeys, says CBD.

“It is encouraging to see more women with deep corporate leadership skills step forward to contribute to boardrooms,” says Mildred Tan, co-chair of CBD and chair of Tote Board Singapore. “The synergy of women and men working together, bringing diverse perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, enhances organisational performance, whether in the profit or non-profit sectors.”

Maintaining progress in board diversity, let alone advancing progress, requires consistent and significant effort, says Loh Boon Chye, co-chair of CBD and CEO, SGX Group. “This report affirms that organisations and directors are moving in the right direction, and the CBD will continue to work with the ecosystem to accelerate this positive momentum.” 

CBD was established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development in 2019. With President Tharman Shanmugaratnam as Patron, CBD spearheads efforts to encourage organisations across the private, public and people sectors on their journey of leveraging board diversity for business value. 

Infographics: CBD

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