CBD Roundtable:
beyond board diversity disclosures

7 july 2023, friday

Council for Board Diversity Roundtable 20230707

What happens when the Council for Board Diversity brings together chairs and members of board nominating committees (from top 100 listed companies on the Singapore Exchange) for a peer-sharing roundtable on the opportunities and challenges in achieving board diversity for enhanced business resilience?

A gathering of views. An opportunity to exchange knowledge and insights. A robust debate.

Event Highlights

With the global crises of recent years and a faster-changing business environment, board diversity is increasingly recognised for its ability to catalyse robust governance and responsible stewardship, and as a valuable driver for growth. Board gender diversity – the most visible and measurable aspect of diversity and a lead-in to the consideration of other attributes of diversity – in particular, has gained traction.

In Singapore, the proportion of women on the boards of the top 100 listed company modestly climbed from 7.5% in 2013 to 21.5% as at end-2022. The next aspirational target is 25% WOB by 2025, followed by 30% by 2030.

Rather than diversity quotas, Singapore regulators have set reporting obligations that requires issuers to detail their board diversity policy – gender, skill, experience, and other relevant aspects of diversity – in their annual reports for FY2022 onwards. Together with the revised listing rule limiting independent director tenure to 9 years, this places increased focus on the role of nominating committees.

KEY Takeaways

Co-hosted by UOB board directors and Council members Steven Phan and Ong Chong Tee, the Council for Board Diversity’s first roundtable of the year – organised with official partner UOB – brought up these salient points:

  • There is alignment on the importance of board diversity. But more than representation, diversity has to enrich and bring value to board discussions in terms of business strategies, resilience, innovation, etc.
  • For true cognitive diversity, other elements or attributes of diversity – in addition to gender – have to be considered, such as technical and cultural backgrounds, international experience, even age.
  • Gender diversity is under the spotlight in Singapore and many other countries. However, imposing gender quotas come with complexities. Natural progression, though far slower, is largely favoured. Some participants urged all-male boards to actively consider how adding this aspect of diversity would benefit their companies.
  • A board diversity plan and the professionalisation of the board appointment process is key to increasing diversity. This includes casting the net beyond personal networks, including, for example, utilising professional search firms.
  • Diversity and inclusivity – Beyond onboarding new directors, especially women, ensure the boardroom is a space where diverse views and opinions are welcomed, with the aim of stronger business outcomes. Board and nominating committee chairs play a role in creating that space for diverse views.