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Forum: Focus on meritocracy in push for board diversity

The Council for Board Diversity deserves commendation for its efforts to promote greater female participation on the boards of listed companies, statutory boards and institutions of public character (More women on governing boards in Singapore, Sept 1).

Based on the mid-year data released, the council’s target of 30 per cent of board seats held by women has been surpassed by statutory boards, at 32 per cent, and nearly realised by the top 100 institutions of public character at 29.5 per cent. Meanwhile, representation in the top 100 listed companies hit 22.7 per cent – below the council’s target of 25 per cent by end-2025.

Without intending to disparage the ability of women or belittle the council’s efforts, I am wondering, however, if these targets can lead to perceptions that women have been appointed to boards not on merit, but rather to fulfil the targets and to conform with political correctness.

In this regard, I agree with the Straits Times editorial’s view on the importance and need to have class, race and gender diversity “so long as meritocracy prevails in the selection of talent” (Boards need more gender diversity, Sept 1).

Of course, women should not be under-represented on boards because of discrimination or cultural biases, and the council should do all it can to demonstrate the benefits of gender diversity, groom female talent and remove obstacles to facilitate their participation.

I have no doubt that there will be no objection from the men if there are enough qualified women to surpass the council’s 30 per cent target. 

Ang Ah Lay

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