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Women's board appointment in top 100 SGX-listed firms rises to 15.7% in H1

FOR the first half of 2019, women on boards increased by 0.5 percentage point to 15.7 per cent among top 100 primary-listed companies by market capitalisation on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), said the Council for Board Diversity.

Five of these companies, which are already gender-diverse - ComfortDelGro, SBS Transit, Wing Tai Holdings, First Resources and SATS - each added a woman director.

All-male boards were reduced by four, to 21, after Wilmar International, Hong Leong Finance, CapitaLand Mall Trust, ESR-Reit and Singapore Airlines added a woman director each, and the addition of one all-male board during the period.

Among listed companies, statutory boards and institutions of a public character (IPCs), statutory boards made the best progress with a 1.2 percentage point increase to 24.5 per cent.

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Women on boards among the top 100 IPCs by donation receipts remained at 27.4 per cent, but was still the highest among the three sectors.

The council said that while more could be done across the three sectors, some have achieved its immediate targets.

Of the top 100 listed firms, 36 have achieved the council's first-tier target of at least 20 per cent women on boards.

Fifteen of 64 statutory boards have reached 30 per cent or more women on boards, up from 12, while 40 of top 100 IPCs have achieved 30 per cent.

The council urged the top 100 primary-listed companies and IPCs, as well as statutory boards, to lead the way and demonstrate the compelling benefits of having women on boards to smaller organisations.

Following its establishment by the Ministry of Social and Family Development in January 2019, the council has set a long-term target for equal proportion of men and women directors on boards.

In the nearer term, its target for the top 100 primary-listed companies is achieving the first tier of 20 per cent women on boards by end-2020.

Subsequently, it looks to have all listed companies achieve 25 per cent women on boards by end-2025, and 30 per cent by end-2030.

Top 100 IPCs and statutory boards are to achieve 30 per cent women on boards as soon as possible.

There are more opportunities to improve diversity through proactive, future-focused board refreshment, particularly with the nine-year tenure rule for independent directors taking effect on Jan 1, 2022, said the council.

As at June 30, 2019, 98 independent directors among the top 100 listed companies have served on the boards for at least nine years.

Companies planning to appoint more women directors on their boards can look at a broader slate of male and female qualified board directors, and search beyond personal networks to enlarge the candidate pool, said the council.

Loh Boon Chye, co-chair of the Council for Board Diversity, and CEO of Singapore Exchange, commended the progress made by all three sectors in appointing women directors in the first half of 2019.

"Encouragingly, across all three sectors, organisations that were already supportive of board gender diversity further added women directors, and this reflects widening commitment to board gender diversity," he said. 

Said Mildred Tan, co-chair of the Council for Board Diversity (CBD), and chairperson of National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre: "CBD has intensified its efforts to engage in direct conversations with board decision-makers as it is timely for organisations to refresh their board and strengthen board composition, by looking for directors that bring a broader range of diversities and in-demand skills to take them into the future."