Getting more women into the boardroom

Getting more women into the boardroom

SINGAPORE - A survey on the paltry representation of women in corporate boardrooms here has sparked discussion on what to do to raise their numbers.

Should Singapore follow Norway and impose a quota for women representation? Set a target for it as Malaysia has done? Or work to change mindsets in the workplace to accept women on top?

But what if women don't even aspire to those positions in the first place? Is the drive for gender diversity even worthwhile?

These are thorny questions to raise on an issue as sensitive as gender differences. But they need to be asked.

A recent survey by Dr Marleen Dieleman of the National University of Singapore (NUS) of 6,000 directors in the public and private sectors here found that only 12 listed companies had three or more women directors. These are mainly founding members of family businesses.

Overall, women made up only 7.3 per cent of all boards of listed companies here last year. That's better than the "rather shocking" figure of 6.9 per cent in 2011, said Dr Dieleman, but it's low compared to Australia (17 per cent), the United States (16 per cent) and the European Union (13.8 per cent). Women make up 19.8 per cent of statutory boards.

In Singapore, 60 per cent of all listed company boards here are all-male, compared to 57 per cent in India and 39 per cent in China.

Dr Dieleman, who is associate director of NUS' Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations, also found that the "macho" sectors of construction and properties had the highest proportion of women on boards: 10 and 8.6 per cent respectively.

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