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Women in boardrooms: Singapore typical of South-east Asia peers

Just 9% of board seats are taken by women in Singapore, lagging the proportion in European economies; says Deloitte

The boardroom of Spencer Ogden office.


WOMEN hold 9 per cent of board seats and lead 7 per cent of boards in Singapore, a Deloitte report released yesterday said.

The energy and resources industry has the highest proportion of women on its boards at 14 per cent, followed by the financial services and technology, media, and telecommunications industries.

And although the proportion of women in boards in the Republic is fairly typical of that in South-east Asia - where it does not cross the 10 per cent mark - it is still way behind that of the European economies; Norway is at the top of the list at 37 per cent, noted David Chew, head of Deloitte South-east Asia's Centre of Corporate Governance.

Insufficient family support and traditional barriers that women have to overcome are the likely contributing factors, he added.

The report also noted that women usually hold positions in the boards' audit committees.

To put together the fourth edition of its report titled Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective\, Deloitte surveyed nearly 6,000 companies across 49 countries; 45 listed entities were sampled for the study in Singapore.

Singapore does not have gender quotas for women on boards or in senior management positions, but local initiatives have taken root.

For example, BoardAgender, launched in 2011 by the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) and endorsed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, holds networking sessions and forums to raise awareness of the benefits of gender diversity.

Such activities would be the kind that Deloitte Singapore's assurance and advisory partner Seah Gek Choo said would be needed: "There should be more platforms for corporations to be exposed to these women candidates, so they are not excluded from the selection process, in order for leasers of the highest calibre to be represented on boards."

She said, however, that board appointments should be meritocratic. An individual's capability and fitness to serve the board should be the primary focus, irrespective of gender.

In France, where quota legislation for boardroom gender diversity was reinforced last year, the number of women serving on its stock market index SBF120 has risen from 23 per cent in 2013 to 30 per cent now.

Norway, France, and Sweden have the highest ratios of women in the boardroom.

Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea rank among the lowest; under 2 per cent of board seats are held by women in South Korea.

While there has been a welcome increase in women on boards globally, the number of women securing the position of chair remains elusive - even in the most progressive countries, commented Deloitte.