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Women's presence on Singapore boards edges up to 8.8% in 2014: report

FEMALE representation on the boards of Singapore's listed companies grew slightly in 2014, but remained below levels at many other major markets, according to a new report by the Diversity Action Committee (DAC).

The number of directorships held by women in Singapore-listed companies rose 10 per cent to 448 in 2014, according to the report, which used data from Handshakes. But women's share of directorships increased by only half a percentage point to 8.8 per cent.

Singapore Exchange (SGX) chief executive Magnus Bocker, who chairs the DAC, said that the larger presence of women on listed boards was "encouraging".

"Though we still have a long way to go, the findings support how a rising number of companies and their boards are taking steps to foster better governance and business performance with a more gender-diverse board," Mr Bocker said.

Most of the gain in representation came as independent directors, with women accounting for 7.1 per cent of independent board members in 2014 compared to 5.9 per cent in 2013. About 39 per cent of all women directors were independent in 2014, compared to 34 per cent in 2013.

The study found only slight differences in board gender diversity across different company sizes. Women accounted for 8.7 per cent of directors in companies with a market capitalisation above S$1 billion as well as in companies with a market cap below S$300 million.

Women representation on the boards of companies in the media industry showed a big jump in 2014, rising to 16 per cent from 4 per cent in 2013. But that gain came from a minority of companies in the sector. Only 40 per cent of the boards in the media sector had any woman director in 2014, below the entire market's 45 per cent.

Among the most diverse companies in Singapore were retail businesses, where women accounted for 14 per cent of directors and 69 per cent of companies had at least one female director. Automobile and components companies were among the least diverse, with only 2.9 per cent of directors women, and 20 per cent of the boards having at least one female director.

Despite the slight improvement in the overall presence of women on Singapore boards, the national participation rate lags many major markets elsewhere in the world.

Singapore's 8.8 per cent share of directorships held by women was less than the proportion in Norway, the UK, Australia, the US, New Zealand, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, India and Malaysia.

The DAC was formed in August 2014 to build up the representation of women on the boards of companies. It comprises representatives from various public and private organisations and businesses.

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