NUS Business School study: Gender pay gap of 43.2% in SGX-listed boards

New data ahead of International Women’s Day shows women directors paid substantially less than male counterparts

Singapore, 1 March 2017 - Remuneration of female directors of SGX-listed companies trails far behind their male counterparts, an NUS study has found. The study, using newly available data, showed large gender pay gaps across all categories of directors and all firm sizes.

Female directors of SGX-listed companies earned just 56.8% of male directors’ remuneration on average, according to the study by NUS Business School’s Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations, indicating a gender pay gap of 43.2%. (Annexe: Table 1).

The NUS study, published before International Women’s Day 2017 on March 8, makes use of director remuneration disclosures required under SGX’s new corporate governance code.

The largest gaps were found among large firms with a market capitalisation over S$1 billion (45.5%) and among executive directors (43.9%).

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 (i.e. a 17.0% gender pay gap). (Annexe: Table 2).This can 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.

But 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 one excludes CEOs (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.

The gender pay gap in small listed firms (market capitalisation below S$200 million) was 44.9%, in mid-caps (S$200 million to S$1 billion) it was 39.9% and for large caps (over S$1 billion) the gender pay gap was 45.5%.

Dr Marleen Dieleman, Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy at NUS Business School commented: “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 firms listed on the Singapore Exchange that disclosed exact director remuneration for 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.


Table 1: Average annual Director remuneration (S$) by market cap

Average Director remuneration (S$)MaleFemaleGap (%)
All SGX-listed companies 368,589 209,265 43.2
Small caps (< 200mln) 220,398 121,514 44.9
Mid-caps (200 - 1bln)/td> 439,132 263,939 39.9
Large caps (> 1bln) 585,372 319,237 45.5

Source: CGIO Database

Table 2: Average annual Director remuneration (S$) by board role

Average Director remuneration (S$)MaleFemaleGap (%)
Independent Director 104,237 86,474 17.0
Non-Executive Director 109,692 77,183 29.6
Executive Director (All) 1,118,877 628,024 43.9
Executive Director (Excl. CEO, Executive Chair) 493,742 425,131 13.9

Source: CGIO Database