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20 by 2020 - Gender Diversity on Singapore Boards

A recent report by the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI), a subsidiary of Temasek Management Services, showed that much work still needs to be done to improve diversity on Singapore's boards. Singapore's Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, who attended the launch of the report at the Singapore Exchange Auditorium on January 26, 2018 stressed the urgency and importance of having more women represented on company boards. She stated that "board diversity, particularly gender-diversity in this case, is a necessity, not a nice-to-have."

In her speech, Ms Fu urged companies to increase female representation on their boards and called for half the companies listed on the Singapore Exchange -- especially those without any female directors -- to take steps to appoint one female director to their board.

Figures from the Diversity Action Committee (DAC) indicated that representation of females in the boards of the top 100 listed companies in Singapore stood at 12.2% as of June 2016, and the total representation of women on all companies listed in Singapore was just 10.3%. Although these figures have improved since then, they continue to suggest much progress is still needed to improve diversity on Singapore's boards.

At a global level, Singapore's board gender diversity numbers still lag behind those of major international capital markets. According to Sustainable Stock Exchanges' Initiatives 2017 report and the European Commission 2016 Fact Sheet, female directors' representation stood at 27.2% in Germany, 27% in the United Kingdom, 20% in the United States and 15% in Hong Kong. Among the major capital markets, Singapore is second to last, just in front of Japan, which counts only 1.5% of female representation on boards.

According to the HCLI study, a diverse board enables companies to harness an array of perspectives, expertise, and opinions that allow them to read and act on signals of change more accurately and adaptively in a volatile and uncertain environment. Female directors bring different approaches to the boardroom, which are often complementary to those of male directors. Due to differences in the way male and female directors perceive similar problems, female directors offer a check-and-balance mechanism against blind spots in decision making by a board that is dominated by entrenched male directors.

Promoting diversity on boards requires concerted effort and interventions from stakeholders. BoardAgender and the People's Action Party (PAP) Women's Wing have recommended that diversity target setting be a mandatory component of the Singapore Code of Corporate Governance. To start, both organizations urge boards to adopt a target of achieving 20% female representation by the year 2020 and to raise that number progressively to 30% by the year 2030. Considering that the current female directorship representation stands at a mere 10.3%, the gap that needs to be bridged is massive, but not impossible.

To reach the ambitious target of 20% by 2020, the study highlights that all current female directors must be reappointed annually and approximately 130 new appointments of female directors must be added every year from now till the year 2020. Once 20% by 2020 has been reached, only 22 new appointments of female directors need to be made each year from 2021 onwards in order to reach 30% by 2030.

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About the board diversity study

To access the full research document kindly click here.

About HCLI's programme for board directors

To support the 20 by 2020 agenda, the Directors-in-Dialogue (DID) series, a flagship programme of HCLI, which comprises a series of highly interactive forums for directors, welcomes aspiring female board directors who wish to gain exposure and benefit from interactions with chairmen and board directors of companies in the Temasek ecosystem and beyond. Since its launch in August 2014, the DID has received tremendous support from the board community. To date, the series has built up an extensive alumni network of chairmen and board directors from across Asia, the public sector, MNCs, ASEAN companies and social enterprises. Designed to address the evolving needs of board directors in Asia, this series provides the most current thinking on board effectiveness from global thought leaders and subject matter experts, blended with valuable insights and practical "usable" knowledge from some of Asia's most renowned boardroom leaders and practitioners. The discussion themes for each forum vary and are continually refreshed to reflect subjects that are top-of-mind for board directors in Asia today. To find out more about the DID programme please visit and to register please email us at: