Singapore Boards Still Gripped

  • Posted by admin
  • 30 July 2013
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Women make up half the world population and thus half the market, with majority of them being sole purchase decision makers. There is no denying that men and women have differing perspectives but neither of them can be held as more superior than the other. Debates have been carried out on the role of women in business life in the 21st century and viewpoints regarding gender diversity have transformed quite rapidly.

Every individual is different and therefore brings a different skill set and experiences to the workplace. With boards being pulled in various directions today, they have to have the right talent pool to have a more meaningful impact on the business. Women in boardrooms can, undoubtedly, add diversity to boards and lead to better end-performance results. According to study on Fortune 500 companies in 2007 by Catalyst, a U.S. Research group, boards with a higher percentage of female board directors had higher performance ratios than those with few women on the board.

In Singapore, the female population is quite educated and has a major representation in the workforce. Statistics from BoardAgender reveal that in the 51% female population, 51% of women are professionals, managers or technicians while 46% are household financial decision makers. Singapore has a 40% female workforce with 44% being degree holders. This means an incredible opportunity to bring diversity to SGX boards, as well as private and non-profit boards. The Associate Director of the NUS Business School, Marleen Dieleman, supports the business case for improving board diversity so that firms are more effective in business and responsive to their customers.

Although Singapore boasts a strong profile, the gender diversity report on the country's boardrooms signal a contradictory picture. A report by NUS and BoardAgender reveals only 6.9% women holding directorships in SGX firms while over 60% of the listed companies on the Singapore Exchange do not even have a single female member on their boards. The United States shows a strong presence of women in board seats among the world's largest companies. Being a private sector and compliance driven economy, 16% of board seats in Fortune 500 companies are occupied by women.  Thanks to Norway's legislative efforts, it happens to have 44% of women on company boards.

In an interview with Mrs Chin Ean Wah, President, of the International Women’s Forum (Singapore), she highlighted the most quotes reasons for low representation of women on the boards as being the old-boys network mentality and the lack of suitable female candidates. But the latter reason happens to appear invalid since Singapore has many women in the corporate echelons. The Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, recently called for greater female representation at the upper levels and urged for a change in attitudes, particularly among men.

Singapore, like the USA, does not have any set quota for women in boards but US companies are required to disclose diversity considerations when nominating directors. Singaporean companies need to seriously do something about gender diversity in the country's 60% all-boys board for improved corporate performance.

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