Corporate Wellbeing Asia 2023
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Men on boards in Singapore walk off with 43% more pay than female peers

An NUS Business School study shows remuneration of female directors of SGX-listed companies trails behind their male counterparts by a gender pay gap of 43.2%.

Applicable across all categories of directors and all firm sizes, that implies female directors of SGX-listed companies earn just 56.8% of male directors’ remuneration on average.

The largest gaps were found among large firms with a market capitalisation over S$1 billion (45.5%) and among executive directors (43.9%).

Independent directors, who are often paid a fixed fee, had the smallest gender pay gap: female independent directors earn 83% of male peers (i.e. a 17% gender pay gap). This can partially be explained by the fact that women are less likely to serve on board committees, be appointed committee chairs, or act as lead independent directors; roles that come with greater responsibilities and higher fees.

But in other director categories where there is greater discretion, such as Executive Directors and Non-Executive Directors, women earned just 56.1% and 70.4% of their male counterparts respectively.

Executive Directors showed the greatest absolute differences with an average annual remuneration of S$1,118,877 for men and S$628,024 for women. If one excludes CEOs (of which just 3.6% were women) and executive Chairs (of which just 1.2% were women) female executive directors still earn only 86.1% of male directors in the same role.

The gender pay gap in small listed firms (market capitalisation below S$200 million) was 44.9%, in mid-caps (S$200 million to S$1 billion) it was 39.9% and for large caps (over S$1 billion) the gender pay gap was 45.5%.

Dr Marleen Dieleman, Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy at NUS Business School commented: “These results are disappointing and show that gender inequality in SGX-listed company boards deserves greater attention. The discussion on board diversity in Singapore should move beyond merely increasing the percentage of female directors to also address

deep-seated inequalities including remuneration and women’s share of board leadership roles.”

The study was based on data from 199 firms listed on the Singapore Exchange that disclosed exact director remuneration for Financial Year 2015 - 2016. However, the vast majority of firms opted to explain rather than comply with the Code of Corporate Governance’s requirement to disclose exact director remuneration on a named basis. Overall, the percentage of female directors stood at 9.7% in all listed firms and 8.0% among those firms that disclosed director salaries.

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