This study by Korn/Ferry International examined gender diversity on boards of directors in Asia Pacific as well as diversity with respect to age, educational qualifications, and ethnicity. The study covered the largest 100 domestic companies by market capitalization in each of seven Asia-Pacific countries: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore. The markets chosen include a mix of industrialized and emerging economies that operate in a wide range of industries. A total of 6,538 directorships held by 5,793 individual directors were included in our research.
Key findings on gender include:
The number of women on boards remains low. Of the 700 boards examined, only twenty-two have more than two female directors of any type and eight of those are in China. Only two of the 700 boards have
three or more female independent directors.
More than 70 percent of the boards have no female independent directors in five countries – Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore.
Australia has the most women on boards, with 11.2 percent of all directors being female. New Zealand has the highest percentage of all male boards. In terms of other aspects of diversity, the key findings include:
China had the youngest directors on average. Hong Kong companies, followed closely by China companies, are most likely to have directors from two or more generations. The majority of boards, with two exceptions, come from a single ethnic group. In Malaysia, the majority of boards comprise directors from two ethnic groups, while in Singapore it is almost equally common for boards
to have directors from one, two, or three ethnic groups.
Further analyses of the demographic characteristics of female and male directors reveal a number of key differences including:
Female directors are younger than male directors across all countries, by about three years on average.
Female independent directors have shorter tenures on average than male independent directors in all countries.
Female directors are more likely to have law or accounting educational backgrounds, while male directors are more likely to have engineering and science backgrounds.
Female directors are more likely to have public sector or not-for-profit sector experience than male directors. This is especially so in Australia and India.
The study also found that female directors are generally under-represented in board leadership positions, such as chairman or committee chairs. However, in Australia, China, and New Zealand, female directors who are appointed to the board often do become chairs of key committees, especially the audit and remuneration committee.