When it comes to gender diversity in the boardroom, the reality remains that women are largely under-represented on corporate boards, and the progress to change this trend continues to be slow.
This was reflected in Deloitte Global's sixth Women in Boardroom: A Global Perspective report released yesterday (31 October), which showed that women hold just 16.9% of board seats globally.
As compared to immediate past edition of this report, released in 2017, this year's report saw a 1.9% increase in women-held seats.
While gender diversity is generally improving across Asia, the report found that the region still trails the global trend - in particular, women hold 9.3% of board seats in Asia (2016: 7.8%), versus 16.9% globally.
As for board chair positions, women currently fill 4.2% of such positions in Asia (2016: 2.6%), while 5.3% of board chair positions are held by women globally.
Zooming in on specific countries in Asia - Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, the data is as follows:
Singapore: Progress despite no quotas for women serving on boards
In Singapore, women hold 13.7% of board seats and 5.8% of board chairs positions, compared to 10.7% and 5.4% respectively in 2016.
Further, the average tenure of women as board members and chairs are five and 6.7 years respectively, and the average age of women as board members is 57.5 years, compared to 61.5 years for board chairs.
While there are no quotas in place for women serving on boards, other initiatives have been introduced help to ensure diversity in the workplace.
For instance, under the country's Code of Corporate Governance, updated in 2018, company boards are required to have a suitable mix of skills and experience, including diversity of gender and age.
Apart from this, companies are also required to have a diversity policy, and disclose the policy, its objectives, and implementation progress in the annual report.
Singapore's industries with the highest percentage of women on boards
Leading the pack is the technology, media & telecommunications industry, with 21.6% of board seats taken up by women. Following behind are financial services (15%), energy & resources (13.7%), consumer business (11.1%), and lastly, manufacturing (9.2%).
Malaysia: Significant improvement owing to the national 2020 target
Following the adoption of a 30% target for women in leadership and decision-making positions in 2011, Malaysia's government also called for 30% representation of women on boards by 2020.
In fact, this board target was also outlined in the Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance released in 2017 by the Securities Commission Malaysia, which stated that large companies are expected to have at least 30% women directors on their board by 2020.
In line with that, the country has seen a significant improvement in its women representation on board seats - up from 13.7% in 2016 to 20.6% in 2018. At the same time, there has been a slight increase in the number of women board chairs as well (2.7% in 2016 vs 3.9% in 2018).
For instance, there are local training programmes, seminars, and mentorship programmes, such as LeadWomen, established by organisations and associations, in efforts to increase the number of women serving on boards in Malaysia.
Malaysia's industries with the highest percentage of women on boards
Contrary to Singapore's findings, the energy & resources industry has the highest percentage of women on boards, with a representation of 22.9% (2016: 16%).
Coming in second was the financial services industry (20.7%) followed by manufacturing (20.5%), consumer business (19.7%) and technology, media & telecommunications (19.3%).
Thailand: From 0% of women in chair roles, to 2.8%
While Thailand has no quotas set in place for women serving on boards, the country is a member of the Equal Futures Partnership, which has among its goals to use policy to combat gender discrimination, develop more female entrepreneurs, increase women's participation in business, and promote gender equality in the workplace.
In line with this and more initiatives undertaken, Thailand has observed an improvement in its women representation on boards. For instance, while in 2016 it saw just 11.7% of board seats held by women, the representation has climbed up to 14.2% in 2018.
More interestingly, from having 0% of women representation on board chairs in 2016, Thailand has seen an rise to 2.8% as of 2018.
Thailand's industries with the highest percentage of women on boards
In similar findings to Singapore, Thailand's technology, media & telecommunications industry takes the top spot with 18.8% women representation on its boards, a little ahead of the energy & resources industry (16.4%).
Additionally, financial services came in third (13.5%), followed by manufacturing (11.6%) and consumer business (10.5%).
Indonesia: Bridging gaps in the boardroom and C-suite
In Indonesia, the government currently has no quotas set in place for women serving on company boards, and no references to boardroom gender diversity or women's representation on boards in the corporate governance guidelines.
The country currently sees a 9.3% women representation on board seats (2016: 7.9%), while a lower 7.6% of board chairs are taken up by women.
Commenting on this, Antonius Augusta, Corporate Governance Leader, Deloitte Indonesia, pointed out that despite a population exceeding 260mn, half of which consists of women, Indonesia still faces a large gap in the percentage of women serving on boards and in leadership positions compared to men.
"It is up to the organisation to encourage and actively develop and retain top female talent. Such initiatives can help promote change and advance more women, more often, into leadership roles throughout Indonesia, especially in boardrooms and in the C-suite."
Indonesia's industries with the highest percentage of women on boards
The technology, media & telecommunications industry came out top with 15.2% of board roles taken up by women, followed not too closely behind by the financial services industry (2018: 9.9% vs 13.% in 2016).
At the same time, energy & resources came in third with 9.9%, slightly ahead of consumer business (8.7%). Last came the manufacturing sector, with 5.3% women representation on boards.
Infographics / Deloitte Global's sixth Women in Boardroom: A Global Perspective report