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Diversity committee targets 30% of board seats for women by 2030

THE Diversity Action Committee (DAC) has adopted an escalating set of targets to raise women's share of board seats over the next 13 years, which if met could lead to women filling 459 more board seats by 2020 than they currently occupy.

The DAC, which was formed in 2014 to address the under-representation of women on boards of Singapore-listed companies, called its plan a "hop, skip and jump" approach: a 20 per cent share of board seats for women by 2020, then 25 per cent by 2025, and finally 30 per cent by 2030.

DAC chairman and Singapore Exchange chief executive Loh Boon Chye acknowledged that the targets, especially the first step, can be ambitious.

"It is a target that is a possibility, but also not likely probable," Mr Loh said at a briefing for reporters. "We recognise the challenges, but it's a pragmatic and aspirational three-step target that we're trying to achieve."

Assuming that the number of board seats among Singapore primary-listed companies remains the same, companies will have to replace male directors with female appointments on 459 board seats to meet the 20 per cent by 2020 target, according to data compiled by DAC. The number of board seats that will have to be filled by women increases to 685 for the second target, and 911 for the final one.

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Mr Loh said DAC continues to support the adoption of those targets by companies under Singapore's comply-or-explain corporate governance framework.

"We feel that if companies recognise that this is really of business benefits, with the view of a sustainable business model, the momentum for change will be greater than a mandatory target, which at times could speak of tokenism," Mr Loh said. "People just trying to make the numbers. But if you don't really believe in the benefits, how sustainable that will be will come into question."

Speaking in Parliament, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin expressed support for DAC's tiered approach.

"This is to signify that getting women on boards is a journey, and not a destination," Mr Tan said. "Businesses and the economy will see and reap the benefits of having more women on boards over time."

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