Our belief

Board diversity catalyses robust governance and responsible stewardship, and is a valuable driver for growth.

Our Belief

CBD believes that board diversity catalyses robust governance and responsible stewardship, and is a valuable driver for growth.

Geopolitical tensions, the climate crisis, security risks from threat actors, and Covid-19 have accelerated fundamental shifts in business models. A surge of new technologies and digitalisation have also added to changes in consumer behaviour as well as in supply chains. These shifts have fuelled a focus on how board directors, as a group, chart corporate strategy and create and preserve enterprise value.

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 organisations.

Read more about why diverse boards are crucial for organisations here.

Our Background and Mission

CBD was established by the Ministry of Social and Family Development in 2019 to spearhead efforts in encouraging listed companies, statutory boards, and Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) on their journey to leveraging board diversity for enterprise value. As part of this endeavour, CBD promotes a sustained increase in women’s representation on boards – the most visible and measurable aspect of diversity – as a stepping stone to broader diversity.

CBD currently concentrates efforts on large organisations as they are better able to mobilise resources when looking into policy needs, processes and implementation. With the increasing recognition of board diversity as an indicator of stewardship and governance by multi-stakeholders, the need to face the diversity issue is also more immediate for larger organisations. Their search for and appointment of women directors also brings attention to the urgency of board gender diversity and adds momentum for other organisations to follow.

CBD builds on the work of the Diversity Action Committee (DAC) from 2014 to 2018 and a study by the Diversity Taskforce regarding Women on Boards (DTF) in 2012. Find out more about our journey here.

Our Approach

Taking a collaborative multi-stakeholder approach in unlocking the power of board diversity, CBD:

  1. Engages with key board decision-makers and influencers to advance board diversity.
  2. Activates board-ready women comprising C-Suite executives and professionals; and we welcome organisations approach us for information on board appointment best practices and for recommendations of board-ready women.
  3. Partners stakeholders in the ecosystem, including regulators and investors, to influence and accelerate change.
  4. Takes a broad view across public, people and private sectors, in promoting consistent practices and disclosures on board diversity.

Our Views

Quotas do not guarantee ensuing benefits

We are interested in board diversity, including gender, for the benefits that it brings. Meeting the numbers does not guarantee that benefits follow.

We are investing the effort to convince key board decision-makers and market participants that organisations with diverse boards do better. In harnessing opportunities and managing risk, it is indisputible that diversity beats tunnel vision hands down.

Where organisations willingly embrace board diversity, more effort is likely to be invested in making the arrangement work well than if numbers were met for compliance without enthusiasm. Read more about quotas and targets.

Suitable women board candidates are available

Some boards’ perception of a shortage of qualified women may have been caused by (a) their preference to fill board seats through recommendation from their personal networks, and (b) their preference for experienced or older directors which limits their definition of a suitable board candidate.

Women hold a third of senior leadership roles in Singapore, a proxy for the available pool of board-ready women. This proportion is comparable to countries like Australia, US and UK, but women’s representation on Singapore boards are half of these countries’.

At the same time, we witness the increasing appointment of Singapore women to international boards overseas as they diversity.

Singapore Boards may find that the pool of candidates is much larger than expected if they look beyond traditional networks and re-examine the profile of board directors they seek.

Council for Board Diversity Singapore Women on Boards vs Senior Mgmt Dec 2023


Meritocracy and Diversity can co-exist

CBD supports merit-based appointment of board directors. Every director must possess the necessary qualifications, skills and experience to contribute to the board.

Equally, diversity has become more important than ever, given disruptions and shifts in business models.

As part of the board search process, organisations could seek to widen their reach to add new and different pools of candidates to find the best suited for the board’s future strategy.

For organisations to recruit the best candidates, regardless of gender, based on merit, we encourage organisations to:

  1. Look for candidates beyond personal networks and make use of other sources such as executive search firms and business network groups
  2. Engage in the search process at least a year or two ahead of board renewals to increase chances that the best candidates are not otherwise engaged in other commitments or have the time to de-conflict other priorities.
  3. Ensure that at least 20-25% of the candidates are women and aim to interview at least one woman candidate.

“I’m convinced that we can get diversity with meritocracy … Too often, we say yes to meritocracy, but when we look at the slate of candidates, it’s the same old, same old. And that’s why we have to open our eyes and our perspectives to see if we can bring on more diversity, broaden our pool of candidates and look at talent with different eyes.”

See FAQ 2 on how to increase the number of women on your boards.

Boost Investor Confidence Through Diversity Disclosure

Companies disclosing their board diversity policy in the right spirit, in line with SGX Listing Rules, presents an opportunity for champions of diversity to shine and will help raise the profile of Singapore listed issuers amid the growing importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors to investors.

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted stakeholders to pay close attention to companies’ sustainability and resilience. In turn, companies have to assure stakeholders about their ability to navigate frequent change and heightened uncertainty, anticipate risks and seize new opportunities.

A diversity policy within the context of sustainability goals, not confined to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, would illustrate how the organisation’s diversity objectives interact with its other targets. Sustainability reporting is increasingly moving to defining short, medium and long-term targets and disclosing performance in relation to these targets. Measurable targets and quantitative metrics will make sustainability and diversity policies more tangible.  We can expect value to be reflected in business worth.

In times of uncertainty, a broader diversity in the board is an advantage in exploring new possibilities to create business value and advance entrepreneurship. Board diversity is clearly not a matter of numbers. 

Read more about the disclosure requirements.

Progress of Women’s Representation on Boards

Working toward parity in participation of men and women on boards in the long term, CBD introduced aspirational targets for WOB, encouraging boards on their journey to leverage board diversity for long-term business value.

The targets take into consideration the different starting positions in board gender diversity for organisations in the three sectors, and were introduced after an extensive study on feasibility.

Our Partners

We have worked with organisations who also believe in the value of diversity in boards. We would like to thank the following partners for their ongoing support, and without whom, our impact would not be as significant:

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