Study links gender diversity in Asia Pacific boardrooms to better company performance


• Asia Pacific firms with at least 10 per cent women on boards have average ROE of 15.4 per cent, compared to 11.8 per cent for those that do not
• Singapore continues to rank behind region, including Indonesia and Malaysia, in gender diversity

Singapore, March 6, 2015 – A major study that examined 1,000 companies across 10 Asia Pacific economies has, for the first time, associated better firm performance with companies that have at least 10 per cent of their board seats held by women.

According to new findings published in the report, Diversity Matters: Adding Colour to Boards in APAC, boards that have at least 10 per cent of their seats held by women enjoy, on average, a 3.6 per cent higher Return on Equity (ROE) and 1.3 per cent higher Return on Assets (ROA) compared to boards where women make up less than a tenth of directors.

The report is published by Korn Ferry and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School’s Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO). The study is the third in the series and examined annual reports of the largest 100 publicly listed companies in each of 10 selected economies: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea. The annual reports were for financial year 2012-2013.

The study found that the regional average for female representation in boardrooms stood at 9.4 per cent, up from 8.0 per cent in 2012, and there were fewer all-male boards in most countries surveyed. However, just 24 out of the 1000 boards had four or more women, and few women were in board leadership roles, with only three per cent of chair positions held by females.

The research also found that Asia’s healthcare industry scored highest for gender diversity, with an average of 13.6 per cent female representation, while the industrials sector had the lowest proportion of women board directors at 5.8 per cent.

There were substantial differences between individual economies, with female board representation ranging from 2.1 per cent in South Korea to 18.6 per cent in Australia. Some countries, in particular New Zealand and China, recorded substantial improvement in gender diversity compared to 2012, while Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea saw the proportion of women on boards fall.

All-male boards continue to be prevalent in Singapore, placing it behind most other countries

Singapore continues to be ranked behind economies such as China, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Women occupy 7.4 per cent of board seats in Singapore, a marginal rise from 6.8 per cent in 2012, echoing similar results from an earlier study between CGIO and BoardAgender.

The latest study found that Singapore boardrooms which have at least 10 per cent female representation enjoyed, on average, 15.5 per cent ROE, compared to 13.1 per cent at boards with a female representation of less than 10 per cent.

All-male boards continue to be prevalent in Singapore, making up 52 per cent of all boardrooms in 2013, although this is down from 58 per cent in 2012. This places Singapore ahead of only South Korea and Japan, and on par with Malaysia. All other countries surveyed had fewer all-male boards.

“Singapore has seen only marginal increases in its number of women on boards, and all-male boards remain the norm. As female representation remains generally low in Singapore in comparison to other APAC markets, there is significant potential for companies to benefit from greater gender diversity in their boardrooms”, said Associate Professor Marleen Dieleman, Associate Director of CGIO, NUS Business School.

“Despite the efforts made by governments and organizations, women still remain under-represented on boards in the region. To move towards a balanced representation of women on boards requires a collective effort from all parties. Companies should consider taking concrete steps to improve board diversity by making a deliberate choice to consider female candidates for board positions and start by promoting more women to senior roles”, said Alicia Yi, Managing Director, Asia Pacific Consumer Markets at Korn Ferry.

The report, which includes findings from the other nine Asia Pacific economies, can be downloaded at

About Korn Ferry

At Korn Ferry, we design, build, attract and ignite talent. Since our inception, clients have trusted us to help recruit world-class leadership. Today, we are a single source for leadership and talent consulting services to empower businesses and leaders to reach their goals. Our solutions range from executive recruitment and leadership development programs, to enterprise learning, succession planning, and recruitment process outsourcing.

About Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations

The Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO) was established by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School in 2010 and aims to promote relevant and impactful research on governance issues that are relevant to Asia, including corporate governance, governance of family firms, state-linked companies, business groups, and institutions. CGIO organises events such as public lectures, industry roundtables and academic conferences on topics related to governance.

NUS Business School is known for providing management thought leadership from an Asian perspective, enabling its students and corporate partners to leverage global knowledge and Asian insights.

The School is one of the 16 faculties and schools at NUS. A leading global university centred in Asia, NUS is Singapore’s flagship university which offers a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 37,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.

This year, NUS celebrates its 110th year of founding together with Singapore’s 50th year of independence. As the island’s first higher education institution established by the local community, NUS prides itself in nurturing generations of leaders and luminaries in Singapore and Asia. Details on NUS’ 110th Anniversary celebrations are available at

For more information, please visit, or go to the Think Business portal which showcases the School’s research (

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