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The Council for Board Diversity marked our 5th year in spearheading efforts to encourage organisations on their journey of leveraging board diversity for enterprise value on 31 August 2023. Themed Leadership in a Rapidly Changing World, the anniversary forum brought together exemplary women speakers – including Council patron, President Halimah Yacob – for engaging discussions on stewarding organisations in a time of change.

Held at the Shangri-La Singapore, the forum was attended by 160 board chairpersons and women board directors representing top 100 companies on the Singapore Exchange, statutory boards, and the nation’s 100 largest IPCs.

The fruitful morning session was capped by an anniversary luncheon for Council members and panellists that was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat. A longstanding champion of diverse leadership, DPM Heng observed: “In a more complex and fast-changing environment, boards with a diversity of expertise, skillsets and perspectives can provide better strategic oversight and more robust governance to the organisations they serve. I strongly encourage more organisations to draw on our impressive pool of women leaders in Singapore, and bring together the experiences and expertise of capable men and women for more effective decision-making, risk management and governance.”


Loh Boon Chye and Mildred Tan
Co-Chairs, Council for Board Diversity

Council for Board Diversity Co-chairs Loh Boon Chye (CEO, SGX Group) and Mildred Tan (Chairman, Tote Board Singapore) shared Singapore’s board gender diversity journey and feted Patron of the Council, President Halimah Yacob, for her foresight in initiating an inquiry into women’s representation in corporate leadership a decade ago, thus setting into motion Singapore’s board diversity movement.


  • Mdm Halimah Yacob
    Patron, Council for Board Diversity
    8th President of the Republic of Singapore
  • Ms Sun Xue Ling (Moderator)
    Minister of State for Social and Family Development & Home Affairs

Speaking in one of her last fireside chats as Head-of-State, President Halimah Yacob called on organisations across all sectors to draw on board diversity to navigate uncertain and complex times. Patron of the Council and an early advocate of board gender diversity, Madam President kickstarted Singapore’s board diversity movement in 2012 when, as then-Minister of State for Social and Family Development, she commissioned the Diversity Task Force regarding Women on Boards (pre-cursor to CBD) to examine women’s representation on corporate boards.

Focused on Singapore’s journey to diverse leadership, the candid and engaging fireside was moderated by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State for Social and Family Development & Home Affairs. Excerpts below:

On the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA)
“There was not a single woman on the CPA. So I decided that when there are members whose terms are up that we should make an effort to look for competent, capable women. Today we have 3 out of 10 – an achievement of 30% over a period of 6 years… I depend on the CPA for advice as required by the constitution [when exercising the President’s discretionary powers]. This is where I appreciate the diversity of views from very qualified men and women of different backgrounds and from different sectors. Women articulating their views and concerns and asking questions is also important. I find women to be very meticulous. All this makes for robust discussions and good decision making.”

On diversity’s multi dimensions
“I see diversity as having two parts. One is in terms of your ethnic group, gender and age. The other are your acquired diversities based on your experience, the length of time you’ve served on boards, your professional capabilities. Boards must consider [inherent and acquired] diversities in choosing people. Both bring a great deal of depth to the decisions that have to be made. For instance, a lot of boards are looking for candidates to move the needle towards greater sustainability or in leveraging technology and AI. Obviously, women with these skillsets and experience will be extremely useful. Those looking for board positions can deepen capabilities in these areas.”

On diversity not compromising meritocracy
“We’re not asking for soft options such as ‘you must have X number of women’. That’s the last thing we want. We want a situation where you look at the requirements of this particular board and company – the experience, skillsets and capabilities required – and then look for women [in addition to] men that are able to perform them. Diversity does not have to compromise meritocracy. Appointments are very much on one’s own merits. But reflect diversity in the selection process and give opportunities to those who have the most capabilities and are most able to do the job.”

On purpose and potential
“I read this excellent book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. He’s a psychiatrist who was a prisoner in [Nazi] concentration camps. He observed that many prisoners who survived wanted to live, whether to see their child when they got out or to complete unfinished work. Those without purpose or meaning succumbed to the torture or even took their own lives. So how do we find purpose and meaning? That depends on us. We all have our end goals. But I want to add that for young girls and women, creating an eco-system that is empowering is important.”

Panel: Leadership in a Rapidly Changing World

  • Dr Ming Tan (Moderator)
    Founding Executive Director, Tech for Good Institute
  • Euleen Goh
    Chairman, SATS Ltd
  • Geraldine Chin
    Chairman and Managing Director, ExxonMobil Asia Pacific
  • Chew Gek Khim
    Executive Chairman, The Straits Trading Company Limited
  • Prof Cheong Koon Hean
    Chairman, Centre for Liveable Cities
  • Diaan-Yi Lin
    Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company

Reflecting Singapore’s expanding talent pool of women who have risen to the highest rungs of leadership within their fields, an all-women panel also drew on their valuable experiences in executive and board leadership to share insights in stewarding organisations in a time of change. While centred on harnessing board diversity for robust governance and as a valuable driver for growth, the hour-long discussion also spotlighted the importance of continuous learning for agility in today’s VUCA world. 

Key takeaways on leveraging board diversity for organisational resilience:

Changing role of boards in a VUCA world

  • Boards need as big a radar screen as possible. And in their sense-making of risks and opportunities, have to think broadly and through all possible angles. A diversity of perspectives brings substantive discussion and informed decision-making.
  • As such, board diversity is a business imperative, rather than a social imperative. 
  • Systems leadership and ability for foresight are important, as is learning to change the wheels of a moving bus. Long-term and short-term issues must be managed together. Not taking a long-term view when making a short-term decision is a strategic mistake.
  • Boards have an increased role in talent managing a new set of capabilities at board and management levels. For instance, on the sustainability front.

Harnessing board diversity

  • Diversity should be considered in its broadest sense – beyond gender and race, to diversity of skills, experiences, as well as age. But as a visible reflection of organisational culture and values, gender diversity should be approached as an important step to wider diversity.
  • Look widely for available talent. Beyond deep domain knowledge, fundamental and transferrable skills have value in broadening expertise and can strengthen a business.
  • In addition to getting the right people in the room, a board chair must be able to create space for them to speak, tease out relevance, and then draw a path to action.
  • Board succession planning should be deliberate and in step with evolving organisational strategy. Eg., If acquiring a foreign company, a board can be reshaped to include members with market expertise and cultural awareness.
  • Board dynamics can start well, but environments and business interests can shift over time. It is important to consider perspectives from every side of the table – especially when members wear multiple hats (eg., in an MNC or JV managing P&L and representing stakeholder interest) – to come to a consensus and avoid hung decisions.
  • A healthy relationship between the board and management is built on trust. A balance must be found between giving management room for innovation and maintaining oversight of risks.

Event Highlights

Click here to view photos from the event.

President HalimahYacob.jpg

Mdm Halimah Yacob 
8th President of the Republic of Singapore
Patron of the Council for Board Diversity

Mdm Halimah Yacob served in the National Trades Union Congress for 33 years. She held various positions, as Deputy Secretary General; Director of departments including Legal Services, Women’s Development and Labour Studies; and Executive Secretary of the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries. She was on various national committees including the Economic Review Committee.

She was Singapore’s representative in the International Labour Organisation for 12 years and the first Singaporean to be elected into the ILO. She represented workers in many ILO committees.

In 2001, Elected as a Member of Parliament for the Jurong Group Representation Constituency. Her final and fourth term as an MP was in the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.

In 2011, Appointed Minister of State for Community Development and Sports. She introduced various programmes for seniors and enhanced services for the disabled. She also laid the foundation for the Social Services Offices.

In 2013, Elected as Speaker of Parliament, the first woman to hold the position.

With her passion for social causes, Mdm Halimah is patron to more than 40 charitable and community organisations. She also championed women’s issues and was awarded Woman of the Year by Her World Magazine (2003) and AWARE Heroine Award (2011). She was inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (2014) and conferred the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year (2001).

Mdm Halimah obtained her law degree and Masters in Law from the National University of Singapore. In 2016, she was conferred the Doctor of Law by the NUS.

MOS Sun Xueling

Ms Sun Xueling
Minister of State (Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Social and Family Development)

Board Member, Chinese Development Assistance Council

Ms Sun Xueling was elected a Member of Parliament in September 2015. She currently holds the position of Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Ms Sun serves as a Board Member of the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

Ms Sun served in the Ministry of Education from 2020 – 2022 and had also served in the Ministries of Home Affairs and National Development from 2018 – 2020.

Before entering politics, Ms Sun spent more than a decade in the private sector in finance and investments. She received her Master of Science in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and also holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Economics from the National University of Singapore.

Profile from: Ministry of Social and Family Development Website

Prof Cheong

Prof Cheong Koon Hean
Chairman, Centre for Liveable Cities; Chairperson, LKY Centre for Innovative Cities, SUTD

Prof Cheong Koon Hean is Chair of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities as well as Professor of Practice in the Singapore University of Technology and Design. She is concurrently Chairman of the Centre for Liveable Cities under the Ministry of National Development, Singapore.

Prof Cheong has played an active role in the urban transformation of Singapore over the years. She was the CEO of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) from 2010 to 2020, overseeing the development and management of over 1 million public housing flats. At HDB, she introduced a new generation of public housing and implemented large scale sustainability, biophilic and smart features in HDB towns.

Prof Cheong was also the CEO of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) from 2004 to 2010 and steered the urban planning and development of Singapore, contributing her extensive experience in strategic land use planning, urban design, conservation of built heritage and the real estate market. During her tenure, she uplifted planning and design standards and oversaw the development of major growth areas, notably Marina Bay the new city extension.  She was concurrently appointed the Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of National Development for 16 years from 2001 to 2016, overseeing urban development, public housing and real estate policies.

An active contributor to international discourse on urban issues, Prof Cheong was a former Deputy President and current Council Member of the International Federation of Housing and Planning, a former global Board trustee of the Urban Land Institute and member of the World Economic Forum’s Real Estate and Urbanisation Council. She has also served on several international expert panels advising on governance, planning and sustainability, including the master planning of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City in China. She played a key role in conceptualising the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize and is its Nominating Committee Chairman. She also serves on the Asia Sustainable Infrastructure Advisory Panel.

She is currently a board member of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and is on the Advisory Committees of NUS School of Design and Environment, NUS Engineering Faculty, Singapore Sustainability Academy and the URA Academy. Prof Cheong has   served on the boards of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing & Development Board, Jurong Town Corporation, National Heritage Board, Jurong Port and the Civil Service College.

A Colombo Plan scholar, Prof Cheong holds a 1st Class Honours degree and University Gold Medal in Architecture and a Doctor of Architecture honoris causa conferred by the University of Newcastle; a Master’s degree in urban development planning from University College London and has completed the Advanced Management Programme in Harvard Business School. She is also a Tan Swan Beng Endowed Professor in Nanyang Technological University, the Institute of Policy Studies’ 5th S R Nathan Fellow, Fellow (Life) of the Singapore Institute of Architects and Honorary Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Planners. Prof Cheong has been conferred multiple awards, notably the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding public service, the University of Newcastle’s Convocation Medal for Professional Excellence and the 2017 Asia-Pacific Landscape Architecture Luminary Award by the International Federation of Landscape Architects. In 2016, she became the first Asian to be conferred the Urban Land Institute Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development as well as the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s Lynn S Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award.

Profile from: SUTD website

Chew Gek Khim

Chew Gek Khim
Executive Chairman, The Straits Trading Company Limited

Ms Chew Gek Khim is a lawyer by training. She has been Chairman of The Straits Trading Company Limited since 24 April 2008. Ms Chew is also Executive Chairman of the Tecity Group and Executive Director of Tecity Asset Management Pte. Ltd.. She is Chairman of Malaysia Smelting Corporation Berhad and ARA Trust Management (Suntec) Limited, and sits on the Boards of ARA Asset Management Holdings Pte. Ltd. and Singapore Exchange Limited. She is also Deputy Chairman of the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. She sits on the Board of Governors of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and NUS Board of Trustees.

Ms Chew graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1984. She was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite in 2010, the Singapore Businessman of the Year 2014 in 2015, and the Meritorious Service Medal at the National Day Awards in 2016.

Profile from: The Straits Trading website

Geraldine Chin

Geraldine Chin
Chairman and Managing Director, ExxonMobil Asia Pacific

Ms. Geraldine Chin is the Chairman and Managing Director of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte Ltd.

Prior to her appointment on 1 Jan 2021, she was the Asia Pacific Sales & Trading Manager (Fuels and Lubricants) where she was responsible for Product Trading, Sales, and Supply. She was also a Director of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Private Limited, ExxonMobil Asia Holdings Private Limited and Sinopec Senmei (Fujian) Petroleum Company, and Executive Vice President of EXTAP, a division of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Private Limited.

In her 32-year career with ExxonMobil, she has held various positions including retail, commercial, trading, strategy and planning, human resources and manufacturing in Singapore and in research in the United States.

Ms. Chin is involved in company-wide activities, serving on the steering committees of key ExxonMobil volunteer programs and in-house councils for the leadership development of women and Asians.

Profile from: NTU “Empowering Women of the Future: Women in Stem”, Speaker Info

Euleen Goh

Euleen Goh
Chairman, SATS Ltd, and Singapore Institute of Management
Former Deputy Chairman, Shell plc; and other directorships

Ms Euleen Goh is Non-Executive Chairman of SATS Ltd, a non-executive board member of Singapore Health Services Pte Ltd, and a Trustee of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Endowment Fund. She also chairs the Singapore Institute of Management and DBS Foundation Ltd. She is a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Directors, and a member of the Public Service Commission.

Ms Goh held various senior management positions in Standard Chartered Bank, travelling widely throughout the Group’s operations. Since retirement, she has held non-executive appointments on various boards including DBS Group Holdings Ltd, DBS Bank Ltd, Singapore Airlines, Aviva plc, Singapore Exchange, CapitaLand, MediaCorp, Standard Chartered Bank Thai and Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia. She is the former Deputy Chairman and Senior Independent Director of Shell plc, Chairman of Singapore International Foundation, International Enterprise Singapore and Accounting Standards Council, Singapore as well as a former board member of Temasek Trustees Pte Ltd.

Ms Goh was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2005 and a Public Service Star in 2012.

Profile Taken from: CBD website

Diaan Yi Lin

Diaan-Yi Lin
Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company

Diaan-Yi coleads McKinsey’s work in social sector, public sector, and healthcare in Asia. She also helps direct our work with sovereign-wealth funds in the region.

Formerly the managing partner of McKinsey in Singapore, Diaan-Yi has worked extensively with government entities and government-linked companies in Singapore and across Asia.

Examples of her recent client work include the following:
designing and helping implement large-scale programs to drive performance transformation, accelerated digitization, and improved productivity across the public sector working with sovereign-wealth funds and government entities to maximize value and transform performance across their portfolio companies diagnosing critical gaps in infrastructure and setting up efficient, effective public–private partnerships to close those gaps and support economic development advising an Asian government on detailed implementation plans to transform its pre-primary school system
supporting a public-sector institution on a major portfolio-management effort helping develop a public–private partnership to increase employability among students and graduates.

Diaan-Yi is passionate about working with governments to drive workforce transitions in a new era of work. She has published research on this topic and has spoken extensively on automation, jobs, and the future of work at global and regional gatherings, such as the Asia–Pacific regional meeting of the Trilateral Commission and the Asian Human Capital & Leadership Symposium. Diaan-Yi is also a keen observer of China’s role in globalization and infrastructure development around the world.

In addition to her public-sector work, Diaan-Yi has served clients in many industries—including financial services, telecommunications, logistics, energy, and retail—on a range of issues, such as strategy, corporate governance, and corporate finance.

Before joining McKinsey, Diaan-Yi worked as an investment banker at Credit Suisse First Boston in New York and London. She was a core member of the equity private-placements group and responsible for securing mandates, marketing transactions to potential investors, and structuring and pricing equity transactions for companies that required growth capital.

Profile taken from: McKinsey & Company website

Ming Tan

Dr Ming Tan (Moderator)
Founding Executive Director, Tech for Good Institute; Director, COMO Foundation; and other directorships

Dr Ming Tan is founding Executive Director of Tech for Good Institute, a non-profit founded to catalyse research and collaboration on social, economic, and policy trends accelerated by the digital economy in Southeast Asia.
She is concurrently Senior Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore.

Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, supporting Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property creation, commercialisation and management.

Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 14 countries worldwide. She continues to lend strategic guidance as Advisor to the Founder of the COMO Group, and as a company director to SuperNature Pte Ltd, COMO Hotels and Resorts (Asia) Pte Ltd, COMO Club Pte Ltd, and Mogems Pte Ltd.

Ming also serves on the boards of COMO Foundation, Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre, Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC) Pte Ltd and St. Joseph’s Institution International.

Profile Taken from: CBD website

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The Council for Board Diversity (CBD) believes that board diversity catalyses robust governance and responsible stewardship, and is a valuable driver for growth.

Having diversity in the board brings together the diversity of judgement to chart the best course through uncertainty, challenge, opportunities and risks – applicable to both for-profit and non-profit organisations. The mix of knowledge, skills, experience, gender, age and other relevant features is harnessed to devise strategy and manage its execution. Against this backdrop we believe that including women on boards, in particular, adds a powerful lead-in to the other forms of diversity that bring value to the board’s role in the company.

CBD, established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, endeavours to promote a sustained increase in the number of women on boards of listed companies, statutory boards and non-profit organisations as a stepping stone to broader diversity.