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Deloitte analysis: Percentage of women in C-suite roles in financial institutions in Singapore outperforms Asia average

SINGAPORE, 1 August 2022 – A recent analysis performed by Deloitte found that the share of women in C-suite roles in financial institutions in Singapore in 2021 is 20.8%, which outperforms the Asia1  average of 14.2%. For women in senior leadership (non-C-titled executives) roles, the share is 24.5% in Singapore, compared to 18.5% in Asia. This shows that while Singapore’s numbers compare favourably against regional averages for Asia, more work needs to be done to advance gender equity across the financial services industry, and financial institutions should review and evaluate how they plan to advance in leadership across their organisations.

The analysis, consolidated into a report titled Advancing more women leaders in financial services: A Singapore perspective, presents the key findings and baseline analysis of women in leadership roles across financial institutions in Singapore with the intention of sparking conversations and stimulating ideas on the actions the industry can take to increase women’s share across leadership roles.

Also examined are women in next generation roles in financial institutions in Singapore, defined as those in manager or equivalent titles below senior leadership that could be the next generation of women leaders. According to the analysis, the share of women in next generation roles is 44.9%, nearly twice of Asia’s average of 23.3%.

Looking at historical data, share of women across role categories in financial institutions in Singapore has increased steadily over a 23-year period. From 1998 to 2021, women in C-suite roles increased from 2.0% to 20.8%, women in senior leadership roles increased from 18.2% to 24.5%, and women in next generation roles increased from 27.7% to 44.9%.

The analysis shows that Singapore’s financial services industry has made phenomenal progress in advancing gender diversity over the past two decades, especially in C-suite and next generation roles.

Further analysis revealed that while Singapore is expected to make significant progress in its next generation roles in financial institutions (50.4% share by 2030), projected growth appears to be relatively slower or on the decline at higher echelons. Specifically, the share of women in senior leadership roles is expected to remain constant at 24.5% through 2030, and the share of women in C-suite roles is projected to reduce to 15.3% by 2030.

Despite this, Singapore’s projected 2030 numbers for C-suite and senior leadership roles remain close to the regional averages for Asia – forecasted at 15.9% and 20.5% respectively. Still, the decline in share of women in C-suite roles is a matter of concern, because a 15.3% representation implies that Singapore will only be at the halfway mark in its journey towards the 30% threshold for the share of women in C-suite roles, which is often considered to be the tipping point for enacting substantive change across an organisation2.

Having fewer women in C-suite roles could also have a secondary impact on boardroom diversity. According to a separate Deloitte research, organisations with women CEOs tend to have nearly double the number of board seats held by women3. The study shows that this phenomenon of greater board diversity also applies at the organisational level when looking at the ratio of C-suite to senior leadership levels in financial institutions.

Banking and capital markets sector possesses most potential for progress

Where there are sufficient women in leadership ranks at the organisational level, a multiplier effect – defined as a positive, quantifiable impact on the number of women in the senior leadership level just below C-suite – can be observed. For example, a multiplier of 2x means that at an organisational level, each woman added to the C-suite could result in two additional women being added to the senior leadership ranks.

Overall, a multiplier effect could not be determined for Singapore as there were not enough women in C-suite and senior leadership roles, at the organisational level, to see a ripple effect throughout their organisation, even though the historical growth of women in the C-suite has outpaced those in senior leadership.

But a significant multiplier effect could be observed in Singapore’s banking and capital market sector. The high multiplier of 2.59x implies immense potential for the sector to increase gender diversity at senior leadership roles.

“The multiplier effect illustrates the importance of having diversity at the highest levels of the organisation to drive progress and develop a pipeline of diverse talent. Equally, this also implies that opportunities to ascend, particularly for women in senior leadership roles, are critical for talent retention and the avoidance of a reverse multiplier – that is, the proportional percentage of women that will leave next generation roles, as a result of each woman leaving a senior leadership role,” said Ms SEAH Gek Choo, SheXO Program Leader, Deloitte Southeast Asia.

Gender equity as a business imperative

In Singapore, current government policies and developments that include the White Paper on Singapore’s Women’s Development presented in Parliament in March 2022 can go some way to advance and improve the lives of women in Singapore, and protect women against employers with unfair hiring, promotion and retrenchment practices, as well as safeguard the confidentiality of women who come forward to voice out unfairness in the workplace.

Financial institutions can, in addition, enact strategies and initiatives to increase the representation of women in leadership positions, and serve as drivers of sustainable change.

“Historically, a lack of flexible working arrangements has been an impediment for women seeking to progress in the workplace, and for financial institutions seeking to retain them. But this is quickly changing: as one of the leading FinTech powerhouses globally, Singapore’s financial services industry has rapidly embraced flexible working hours; technology-enabled remote work; mentoring, allyship, and sponsorship programs; and innovative cultures – all of which have been shown to improve outcomes for women,” said Mr THIO Tse Gan, Financial Services Industry Leader, Deloitte Southeast Asia.

“These new evolving mindsets, coupled with new advancement opportunities for women created by new and emerging sectors, such as digital banking, can be expected to significantly increase the overall number of women in Singapore’s financial services sector over the next decade,” Tse Gan added.

As they consider the next steps for the decade ahead, financial institutions in Singapore will need to develop an understanding of their gender equity goals and progress within the context of three spheres of influence – workplace, marketplace and society. Each of the spheres have their own vested interest in how organisations address existing gaps in gender equity – that are increasingly advocating for transparency, accountability, and observable progress.

1The five Asian markets covered by Deloitte’s global analysis are Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, India, Japan, and Singapore.
2Leadership, representation, and gender equity in financial services”, Deloitte, 4 November 2021
3Women in the boardroom: A global perspective – 7th edition”, Deloitte, 2022

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