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5 Singapore firms make it to global stock index recognising good gender equality data, policies

SINGAPORE – Five Singapore-headquartered companies have made it onto a stock index recognising commitment to supporting workplace equality and data transparency.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) is a new addition to the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, which is in its third year.

Bank DBS Group Holdings and real estate developer City Developments Limited (CDL) have been on the list for three consecutive years, while telco Singtel and bank UOB Group returned to the list for the second year running.

The index of 325 companies was announced on Tuesday (Jan 21) and aims to help investors evaluate how firms are tackling gender equality in the workplace and in their local communities, said Bloomberg chairman Peter Grauer.

“Investors looking to incorporate more environmental, social and governance data as part of their investment and risk analysis can use the (index) to help evaluate public companies‘ financial performance,” he said.

Last year‘s index had 230 companies.

Companies which want to be included in the index use Bloomberg’s framework to report gender data for 75 metrics across five areas: female leadership and talent pipeline, equal pay and gender pay parity, inclusive culture, sexual harrassment policies and a pro-women brand.

They are given a score based on their responses, and are included in the index if their score exce a global threshold. They must also have a market capitalisation of at least US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion).

The score takes into account the level of disclosure of gender-related data, and how well the company performs in the five areas.

Data used for this year‘s index was based on fiscal year 2018. 

SGX said it has a target for gender pay ratio, which is to ensure that the total compensation of men and women within each of the nine job grades are within 10 per cent variance.

The ratio is tracked and reported to management, and is published in the annual report. Last year, the target was achieved for all but one of the job grades – men were still paid over 10 per cent more than women in the highest job grade.

SGX chief executive Loh Boon Chye said: “We are convinced that diversity widens the depth and breadth of our collective skills and perspectives, which drives innovation and leads to better long-term performance. Our female colleagues also help build a stronger culture of mentorship and collaboration in the office.”

Half of SGX’s 830 or so employees are female and female directors make up 27 per cent of its board.

SGX also established a secretariat for the Council for Board Diversity, which focuses on building up women‘s participation in the boardrooms of SGX-listed companies as well as organisations in the public and non-profit sectors.

Firms included in Bloomberg’s index this year have a combined market capitalisation of US$12 trillion, up from US$9 trillion last year. They are headquartered in 42 countries and regions, and cover sectors such as consumer staples, energy, financials, healthcare and technology.

Bloomberg also noted from the data gathered that female-led organisations in the index had more women in the top 10 per cent of compensation, and more companies were evaluating their marketing materials for gender bias, up to 78 per cent, from 68 per cent of those in last year‘s index.

It also found that 69 per cent of companies reported having on-site lactation rooms – a new metric in the reporting framework this year.

In the other Singapore companies that made the index this year, women make up at least 60 per cent of the workforce at DBS, CDL and UOB.

Efforts are also under way to encourage more women to take on technology roles, an area that is traditionally male-dominated. DBS, for instance, has been recruiting more women in technology through targeted hackathons, while Singtel is working with the Infocomm Media Development Authority this year to encourage secondary school girls to consider careers in the tech sector.

Female hackathons and coaching sessions for female talent are also on the cards, said Ms Chua Sock Koong, Singtel’s group CEO. “We believe a culture of diversity and inclusion is essential to staying relevant to our customers and our respective stakeholders,” she said.