Board gender pay gap revealed in Singapore

More evidence of board gender diversity challenges were recently revealed, this time in Singapore. Female directors at companies listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) are paid 56.8% of male directors’ remuneration on average indicating a 43.2% pay gap according to research by the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Business School.

The research used the remuneration disclosure required under SGX’s new corporate governance code. This found that the largest gaps in pay between male and female directors were found among large firms with a market capitalisation over S$1 billion (45.5%) and among executive directors (43.9%).

Singapore board diversity

SGX-listed companies are paying less to female directors than male directors

Independent directors, who are often paid a fixed fee, had the smallest gender pay gap: female independent directors earned 83.0% of male independent directors indicating a 17.0% gender pay gap. The NUS Business School said these figures could 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.

However, 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 chief executives were excluded (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.

Dr Marleen Dieleman, Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy at NUS Business School said: “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 SGX-listed firms that disclosed exact director remuneration for the 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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