2012 – 2014
Diversity Taskforce regarding Women on Boards (DTF)
Mdm Halimah Yacob initiated the DTF during her term of office as Minister of State, Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).
DTF, chaired by Mrs Mildred Tan, then Managing Director of Ernst & Young Advisory Pte Ltd, examined the state of gender diversity on boards and in senior management of companies listed on the Singapore Exchange, as well as its impact on corporate performance and governance.
DTF recommended 10 measures to address the underlying causes and proposed to let these measures run their course before deciding whether regulatory actions were required. One of the measures was the establishment of the Diversity Action Committee (DAC) to advocate real changes to women’s representation on boards.
Gender Diversity on Boards Report:
- Mrs Mildred Tan, Managing Director, Ernst & Young Advisory Pte Ltd [Chairperson]
- Mr Patrick Ang, Deputy Managing Partner of Rajah and Tann LLP
- Ms Junie Foo, Co-Founder and Co-Chairperson of BoardAgender; Board Member of Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations; Council Member of SIM; and Deputy General Manager, Asian Business Division of Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ
- Mrs Laura Hwang, President of Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations; and Co-Chairperson of BoardAgender
- Mr Koh Juan Kiat, Executive Director of Singapore National Employers Federation
- Ms Yeo Lian Sim, Special Adviser, Singapore Exchange
Guiding the DTF is an Advisory Panel that comprises industry leaders from the private sector
- Mr J. Y. Pillay, Chairperson of Tiger Airways Holdings and Chairperson of the Council of Presidential Advisers [Chairperson]
- Mr Magnus Böcker, CEO and Board Director of the Singapore Exchange
- Ms Chua Sock Koong, Group CEO and Board Director of SingTel
- Ms Euleen Goh, Chairperson of Singapore International Foundation; Independent, Non-Executive Director of DBS Group Holdings Limited, CapitaLand Limited and SATS Limited
- Ms Olivia Lum, Executive Chairperson and Group CEO of Hyflux Ltd
2014 – 2016
Diversity Action Committee (DAC) Term 1
Mr Chan Chun Sing, then Minister for Social and Family Development, established the DAC on the recommendation of the DTF, as the key driver in a multi-stakeholder approach to enhance the representation of women directors on boards of SGX-listed companies in Singapore. Madam Halimah Yacob, then Speaker of Parliament of Singapore, was Adviser to the DAC.
The late Mr Magnus Böcker, then CEO of SGX, was appointed by MSF as Chair of DAC Term 1. The Committee comprised business leaders from both large and small organisations, as well as professionals from the private, people and public sectors.
- Received support from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) for DAC’s recommendation to strengthen the Code of Corporate Governance by introducing:
- Disclosure of board diversity policy (including gender), self-set objectives and their progress towards achieving the objectives, for listed companies.
- Board tenure limit for independent directors, as having too many long-serving independent directors reduced companies’ abilities to inject their boards with fresh people and hence perspectives.
MAS completed an overall review of the Code in 2018.
- Launched “Women on Boards: Tackling the Issue”, a report which made 5 recommendations to quicken the pace of change. The launch event was graced by then Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and Madam Halimah Yacob.
- Published “Speaking with the Boards” which featured conversations with 10 chairmen and board directors from companies that have achieved awards for good corporate governance practices on the topic of gender diversity on boards.
- Activated 100 potential women directors at a Conference on Women as Board Directors. The goal was to give visibility to the significant proportion of credible women capable of serving on boards. Case study workshops led by professors from INSEAD, Singapore Management University, and National University of Singapore Professor Marleen Dielemann, also gave participants the opportunity to experience decision-making from the perspective of a board director.
- Co-organised with BoardAgender a luncheon for potential women directors where distinguished board leaders (Simon Israel, Euleen Goh and Goh Swee Chen) shared their respective board experiences.
Reports on Women’s Representation on Boards and Supplementary Reports and Thought Leadership Article:
2017 – 2018
Diversity Action Committee (DAC) Term 2
Mr Tan Chuan Jin, then Minister for Social and Family Development, continued to support DAC’s efforts to build up the representation of women directors on boards of SGX-listed companies in Singapore. Madam Halimah Yacob, then Speaker of Parliament of Singapore, continued to be Adviser to DAC.
Mr Loh Boon Chye, CEO of SGX, was appointed by MSF as Chair of DAC. The Committee comprises 18 leaders and professionals from the business, people and public sectors.
- Doubled women’s participation on boards of Top 100 SGX-listed companies, from 7.5% in 2013 to 15.2% in 2018. Read more here.
- Set a triple-tier target of 20% by 2020, 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030 for SGX-listed companies, with the 100 largest primary-listed companies to lead the way, to create momentum for change.
- MAS’s revised Code of Corporate Governance 2018 accepted most of DAC Term 1’s recommendations. The 2018 Code required companies to disclose their board diversity policy, objectives and progress. SGX Listing Rules also implemented a two-tier vote for independent directors who have served for more than 9 years (effective 1 January 2022).
- Engaged key board decision makers and other stakeholders in the ecosystem:
- Chairman-to-Chairman Conversation, with Peter T. Grauer (Bloomberg Chairman) as keynote speaker and a Chairman’s Panel with Peter Seah (Chairman, DBS and Singapore Airlines) and S.S. Teo (Executive Chairman, PIL and DAC member). The event was well attended by Board Chairs of top 100 largest companies listed on SGX.
- One-on-one engagement of key board decision-makers by DAC members.
- Organised “Resolving the Performance Puzzle of Board Gender Diversity” on NUS Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations’s study which established a positive link between gender diversity on boards and financial performance for listed companies in Singapore, using econometrics techniques.
The speakers were Mr Simon Israel (Singtel / SingPost), Mr Tham Sai Choy (Singapore Institute of Directors), Piyush Gupta (DBS), Min Lan Tan (UBS Global Wealth Management), Diaan-Yi Lin (McKinsey & Company), and Associate Professor Lawrence Loh (NUS Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations).
- Organised “What, beyond economics, draws investors to your company” in partnership with Blackrock and SGX. Barbara G. Novick (BlackRock), Chaly Mah (Netlink NBN Management), Neo Gim Huay (Temasek), and Yiong Yim Ming (City Developments Limited) shared their valuable insights on this topic.
- Equipped board-ready women with skills workshops and raised their visibility through initiatives such as:
- The Business Times “Leading Women” group interview series in 2018 (sponsored by DBS).
- Dialogue with Female First-time Directors and Communications Workshop jointly organised with Bloomberg. Ms Goh Swee Chen, Mr Sherman Kwek and female first-time directors exchanged ideas on raising women’s representation on corporate boards and actions that aspiring female board directors could take.
- Executive Presence Workshop jointly organised with Bloomberg and Deloitte for female first-time and aspiring directors.
Reports on Women’s Representation on Boards:
2019 – 2020
Council for Board Diversity (CBD) Term 1
Mr Desmond Lee, then Minister for Social and Family Development, formed the Council for Board Diversity (CBD), building on the work of the DAC and expanding CBD’s mandate to include statutory boards and non-profit organisations, in addition to SGX-listed companies.
President Halimah Yacob, patron to CBD, commented at the launch of CBD that it was a natural progression that statutory boards and charities were included so that organisations in the people and public sectors can also harness the benefits of a leadership with diversity of thought.
- With strong support from the government, hosted gatherings for board leaders to meet with Ministers to discuss the outlook of the Singapore economy, challenges faced by their organisations, interesting opportunities on the horizon as well as the importance of board diversity.
- Developed the Board Appointment Guide for Charities, in collaboration with Ernst and Young Advisory, Singapore Institute of Directors, and National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. The Guide’s foreword was contributed by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. The Guide aims to serve as a useful and practical tool to help charities navigate succession and appointment of the right leaders for their future.
- Interviewed five prominent IPC chairs* who shared their thoughts and insights on important traits that make an effective NPO board member, how diversity should feature in board composition, and how NPO chairs may go about reforming their boards. Read article published in The Business Times here.
* Mr. Edmund Cheng, Ms. Anita Fam, Mr. Ho Kwon Ping, Mr. Lee Tzu Yang, Mr. Chandra Mohan Rethnam
- Raised the visibility of board-ready women, equipped them with tools and organised platforms offering perspectives from eminent leaders:
- Partnered with LinkedIn to host a workshop equipping women with tools to enhance their digital footprint.
- Organised Leadership-in-Action Conversations with Mr Sherman Kwek, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Ms Euleen Goh, Mr Ong Chong Tee, Mrs Tan Ching Yee, Ms Diaan-Yi Lin and Mr Jonathan Ng.
- Continued to engage key board decision-makers one-on-one by CBD members as this is the most direct and effective approach to increase board diversity.
Reports on Women’s Representation on Boards, Board Appointment Guide for Charities, and Thought Leadership Articles:
2021 – 2022
Council for Board Diversity (CBD) Term 2
Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, reaffirmed the Government’s support for CBD’s work to promote a sustained increase in the number of women on boards of listed companies, statutory boards, and IPCs in Singapore.
Mr Loh Boon Chye, CEO of SGX, and Mrs Mildred Tan, Chair of Tote Board Singapore, were reappointed as Co-Chairs of CBD by Mr Masagos Zulkifli. The current Council comprises members that represent a diverse and strong slate of management and board expertise across the business, people, and public sectors.
- Engaged key board decision makers and other stakeholders in the ecosystem:
- “Future of Charity Boards”, which gathered more than 100 board chairs and leaders from Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) for an exchange of ideas and solutions to the most pressing challenges facing their sector. The event featured President Halimah Yacob as the Guest-of-Honour, a Board Chairs’ Conversation with Achal Agarwal (WWF-Singapore), Hsieh Fu Hua (NUS Board of Trustees) and Denise Phua (Autism Resource Centre (Singapore), and closing remarks by Dr Gerard Ee (Chair of the Charity Council).
- Continued to engage key board decision-makers one-on-one by CBD members.
- Encouraged and supported PwC in its study on the quality of listed companies’ FY2019 board diversity disclosures. PwC’s report highlighted the role of the Nominating Committee, and gave attention to the need for companies to increase women’s participation on boards.
- SGX revised its Listing Rules in 2022, having accepted most of CBD’s recommended changes for stronger and meaningful regulations relating to board diversity. The SGX Listing Rules now requires companies to disclose their board diversity policy with targets, plans and timelines, and progress to be reported. Read more here.
- The government demonstrated strong support by taking the lead in improving women’s representation (WOB) on statutory boards. Of the private, public and social sectors, they progressed the fastest, from 23.3% to 31.4% in the 4 years since the establishment of CBD in 2019. Women’s participation on boards of the top 100 largest primary-listed companies on SGX also showed good progress, almost tripling from 7.5% when DAC first started in 2014, to 21.5% at end 2022. Among the top 100 IPCs, women remain active, though their board representation has only grown 1.9% in 4 years, from 27.4% to 29.3%.
- Released “Inspiring Women Leaders” interview series, featuring prominent corporate figures whose experiences and perspectives offer insight and inspiration.
- Organised Leadership-in-Action Conversations with Mrs Tan Ching Yee, Ms Diaan-Yi Lin and Mr Jonathan Ng.
Reports on Women’s Representation on Boards and Thought Leadership Articles: