Despite Singapore being behind Hong Kong and Malaysia for boardroom diversity, the numbers are improving - at least when it comes to the country's largest companies in the Straits Times Index (STI).

In 2015, STI companies achieved 34% growth, with women’s representation reaching 10.2% as of end of the year, up from 7.6% in 2014, found the Diversity Action Committee (DAC).

In these 30 firms, about a quarter of appointments made in 2015 were women - almost twice the market rate of 14% and only nine firms continue to have all-male boards.

Other that the firms in the STI, the report also found that there has been an improvement in gender diversity in all 758 SGX-listed companies, with women holding 9.5% of directorships as at end 2015 compared to 8.8% in 2014 and 8.3% in 2013.

Not only that, large companies (market capitalisation of more than $1b) have improved their representation of women on boards by 10%, reaching 9.6% from 8.7% in 2014.

At the same time, women's appointments comprised of 20% in these companies, the highest on record.

These companies have also reduced the number of all-male boards, to 41% from 54% in 2012.

While the total number of directorships have declined by 63, the report also found that there was an increase in women directorships by 30, 7% higher than the year before. On the other hand, male directorships were found to have gone down by 93, 2% lower than the previous year.

Additionally, 38% of women’s appointments were first-time directors, compared to 32% for men.

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Magnus Böcker, chairman of DAC, observed: "For the past 2 years, we have seen a significant improvement in the number of women directors on boards of SGX-listed companies, especially in large companies.

"This indicates that companies are responding to investor groups’ and DAC’s call for greater gender diversity on boards, as part of a broader view of board diversity. We believe that companies will appoint more women directors in the coming years as this would give them an edge in managing their risks and opportunities to bring the companies forward."

However, for women's representation in the boards to increase further, the report noted that shareholder activism is needed.

It stated: "Small improvements left women’s representation across industry groups more or less unchanged. Many consumer-facing industries are still below the market average of 9.5%. Unless shareholders place priority on board diversity and engage boards on this issue, progress will continue to be slow."

Nevertheless, it noted that despite not having quotas or mandatory disclosure obligations, the SGX-listed company boards are gaining ground in terms of gender diversity in the boardrooms.

"Even in a voluntary setting, SGX-listed companies can still improve and disclose top level diversity to demonstrate the quality of their board. Introduction of disclosure regarding company’s progress towards self-set targets has helped other markets accelerate diversity on boards," the report stated.

Here are some of the top and bottom industries in terms of women representation on boards:

Top industries: Media 21% Retailing 15% Diversified financials 13% Telecommunication services 12% Consumer services 12%

Bottom industries: Automobiles and components 3% Food and staples retailing 6% Consumer durables and apparel 6% Energy 7% Insurance 7% Capital goods 7%

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