What Board Leaders Say

Madam Halimah Yacob

President, Republic of Singapore
Patron, Council for Board Diversity

“The level of women on boards is more than a business enabler, as it is also a barometer of the extent our society values the contributions of women and believes that women can contribute equally with men.”

Loh Boon Chye

Co-Chair, Council for Board Diversity
Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Exchange

“Board diversity, a recognised hallmark of progressive boards even before Covid-19, is more critical now than before. Post-pandemic recovery offers opportunities for innovation and business repositioning. Having directors with a wider mix of gender, age, skills, experiences, and backgrounds allows boards the broad-based choices as they assess what is best for the future. Investors and customers also now expect companies to go beyond the financial bottom-line and incorporate ESG into company strategies and policies. Gender diversity is one of many factors considered in ESG discussions. Women directors are an obvious choice when considering board diversity and we have already started to see some institutional investors vote against boards without sufficient diversity.”

Mildred Tan

Co-Chair, Council for Board Diversity
Chair, Tote Board Singapore and SUSS Board of Trustees

“While some boards may be hesitant of appointing candidates without board experience, changes in consumer behaviours and business models in a post-pandemic world requires board members with the “current” relevant know-how. Their expertise could bring added value to boards’ deliberations. We hope that organisations – including companies and statutory boards – will seek out women talents and give them equal opportunity to take the first step onto a board. When all organisations keep an open mind and appoint such qualified women onto the boards, it expands the pool of candidates for the entire country.”

Gerard Ee

Chair, Charity Council
Chair, Agency for Integrated Care

“The Board is like the team which pilots a ship. Every member of the team has a vital role to play. The team is required to know the destination and what the ship might encounter along the journey. The instruments on board give timely warnings of impending challenges to the ship. Team members are then expected to give appropriate guidance and instructions to crew members to deal with the arising situations. From time to time the ship is upgraded and team members have to be trained and be familiarized with the operational requirements. Sometimes new team members who are familiar with the newly installed equipment have to be recruited. Sometimes team members are transferred to other ships to pass on their skills.”

Euleen Goh

Chair, SATS Ltd
Deputy Chair, Royal Dutch Shell plc

“Too many times the thinking is: ‘We know what’s out there, we know who’s out there. We’ll just appoint the people we know’ rather than ‘let’s take a meaningful look at the wider pool of people and try to bring much more diversity to the board’.”

Peter T. Grauer

Chair, Bloomberg LP

“Lack of (board) diversity can no longer be gotten away with by citing a lack of ‘supply’. We must recognize that it is clearly a matter of demand – and that precedent-setting demand must come from the very top of companies.”

Simon Israel

Chair, Singapore Post Limited

“Board diversity is an important contributor to Board effectiveness and high performing Boards. While gender diversity is only one dimension of diversity, it is an important one and and is a hallmark of progressive Boards.”

Philip Ng

Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Far East Organization

“Values are the rock of foundation for an enduring enterprise. It is important that we seek leaders with the right values, and who are able to operate in the dimensions of vision, reality, ethics, and courage, regardless of gender. I recommend fellow board chairmen and business owners to consider the best talent possibilities, so as to bring on board stewards who will grow the enterprise assets entrusted to their care. The diversity of views, skills and experience will enrich discussions and add value to our companies and customers.”

Peter Seah

Chair, DBS Bank and Singapore Airlines

“You will see richer dialogue and discussion with women on boards. Because of our good experience, we now always insist that we have women on our Board.”

Lim Hwee Hua

Chair of Asia Pacific Exchange and Independent Director of Jardine C&C
Trustee of the International Valuation Standards Council

“I realized that women are really made different from men, we complement them rather than replace them. Any conversation, especially the more serious it is, the more important it would be to have women’s contributions to make it more holistic. In any setting, including the board setting.”

Chaly Mah

Chair, Netlink NBN Management Pte Ltd
Chair, Singapore Accountancy Commission and Singapore Tourism Board

“I think it’s important for you to make sure that your board is diverse enough to support your business. To me that must be the number 1 consideration. And what I find with women on the board is actually they do come up with very different perspective from the men. …One thing that boards could think about is actually to make sure that when you are trying to fill a board position, you make sure that the candidate pool has got enough women on the candidate pool. Then I think you’ve got a better shot of considering it. So if you’re looking for an engineer, make sure that you have ideally 50:50 male and female candidates. Or at least enough numbers for you to pick from. I think those are good practices to embrace.”

Teo Swee Lian

Chair, CapitaLand Integrated Commercial Trust
Independent Director, Singapore Telecommunications Limited

“Every Board strives to steer the company towards better strategies and directions. Being able to take into consideration as wide a range of perspectives as possible is key in helping to identify these better decisions and avoid the risk of being blind-sided. Board diversity in terms of expertise, background or gender provides this opportunity for richer and more textured deliberations.”

Tham Sai Choy

Immediate Past Chair, Singapore Institute of Directors
Independent Director, DBS Bank Ltd and Keppel Corporation Ltd

“Even as we debate the business case for board diversity, it is clear that at the minimum there is already a valid question for each board to consider – how to meet the need of investors to understand the company’s approach to the issue. Simply ignoring the question will not inspire investor confidence. Respecting investors’ valid needs for information will require well thought-through communications on how the company deals with board diversity, now and in the future, to secure sustainable success.”

Barbara Novick

Senior Advisor, BlackRock

“When we see a company today that has no women on its board, no diversity of any kind, it does make us kind of scratch our head and say, “Really? Did you look? Did you consider any diverse candidates?” Now sometimes someone will say, “We haven’t had any board replacement. We don’t need to do replenishment so it’s very slow change.” Okay, that’s interesting …In your code, 9 years, will force some amount of turnover …So I think some of these issues can be self-correcting over time but some boards do have to look at themselves in the mirror and say, “Are we even making an effort?” And I think forcing people to disclose what is your policy, what is your progress, that’s a good thing.”

Chua Sock Koong

Supervisory Board Member, Royal Philips
Non-Executive Director, Prudential plc

“I’m often asked how I’ve managed to make it this far as a woman. I’m sure if I were a man, I wouldn’t be asked this question to begin with.”

Teo Siong Seng

Immediate Past Chair, Singapore Business Federation
Chair, Pacific International Lines Pte Ltd

“Companies today face numerous challenges: rapidly evolving competitive and regulatory landscapes, changing customers’ demand, rapid technological changes, narrowing talent pool and others. It makes business sense to infuse new and relevant perspectives and capabilities regularly at the boardroom to equip companies to better meet these challenges. As an organisation is only as strong as its leadership, I encourage my fellow business leaders to make a conscious effort in incorporating gender diversity at the board level when looking at succession planning. It is our responsibility to set the right building blocks for leadership as this is in the best interest for our companies.”

Wong Su-Yen

Chair, Singapore Institute of Directors
Independent Director, First Resources Ltd and Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd

“Every chairman knows that they didn’t start out being on a board with board experience. Everyone had to start somewhere.”

Min Lan Tan

Group Managing Director, UBS AG and Head of APAC Investment Office, UBS Global Wealth Management

“For shareholders and owners of companies, the report Gender Diversity Matters by UBS pointed out that gender-diverse companies – those with women in at least 20% of senior leadership positions – were more profitable than their less gender-diverse peers. The same study also showed that from 2011 to 2017, a UBS gender-focused portfolio of companies beat the MSCI World Index by an average of 1.6% a year. While this does not necessarily imply causation, gender diversity is to us a proxy of well-run companies with good corporate governance.”

Diaan-Yi Lin

Senior Partner and Asia Co-Lead for Social, Healthcare and Public Entities, McKinsey & Company

“Women’s representation in leadership and leadership roles, especially on corporate boards, matters a great deal. Research shows that the presence of three or more women on boards is positively correlated with stronger organizational health; better decision making, corporate governance, and financial performance; greater diversity of thought; a closer match between companies and customers; and a broader base of leadership and talent. Increasing the number and percentage of women on corporate boards is not only equitable; it is also an effective approach to strengthen companies and national economies, by enabling them to tap into the best available people across entire talent pools.”

Serge Pun

Chair, Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd

“I’m hoping to find more people who have a view of their own instead of all being ‘yes men’ who will just agree with me. That would defeat the whole purpose of having a board. I might as well make all the decisions myself.”

Views on board diversity and resilience

From Board Chairmen

Read the key takeaways from the Panel Discussion with

  • Peter Seah (Chairman, DBS Group and Singapore Airlines) and
  • S.S. Teo (Executive Chairman and Managing Director, Pacific International Lines)

Views on Board Diversity

From perspective of companies, investors and advisers

Read the summary of the Panel Discussion with Piyush Gupta (CEO, DBS Group), Min Lan Tan (Group MD and APAC Head of Chief Investment Office, UBS Global Wealth Management) and Diaan-Yi Lin (Senior Partner and Asia Co-Lead for Social, Healthcare & Public Entities, McKinsey & Company) here.

Shared Wisdom

From Chairmen and Investors

Chairmen of leading Singapore companies with diverse boards are united in their view that gender‑diverse boards are simply better governed.