Over the years, it has become a well established fact that a diverse workforce and leadership board is the key to a holistic company culture and well-rounded growth. With an improved grasp over customer motivations, investor expectations, and employee needs, companies with diverse teams are better able to prepare themselves for the future. A large part of the problem in various Southeast Asian countries has been gender disparity at the workplace - An issue that requires constant revisits and reassessment. Here's an overview of the improvement in the employment of women in Singapore’s workforce over the past few years.
Singapore has witnessed a steady growth in women's employment as well as the reduction of the gender pay gap. From 8.8% in 2002, the gender pay gap reduced to 6% in 2018, showing an improvement in the status of female employees within companies. Another report from Singapore also shared that 67% of respondents who were polled said “genders were equal when it came to pay and rewards”, showing a significant rise from 48 per cent in 2017. While an ideal situation would be the absolute dissolution of the pay gap, it is heartening to see that companies are beginning to pay heed to the value of a gender-diverse workforce, and are making changes to improve the situation for their employees.
The gender pay gap is not the only area where Singaporean companies have seen an improvement. Reports from a Grant Thornton survey suggest that while women held only one-in-four senior roles globally in 2017, the situation in Singapore was much better, with women holding 30% of senior positions, an increase from 26% in 2016. The same report also suggested that while women were present in some senior-level positions, the number of women on company boards in Singapore was abysmal in comparison to other major international business centres. The representation of women across all company boards listed in Singapore was a mere 10.3% in 2017. Making a case for a gender-diverse board and improved measures for corporate team building, a report listed enhanced financial performance, higher returns on equity, increased trust from investors, stronger corporate governance and greater social impact as some of the reasons why companies should consider a change in their traditional pattern of appointments.
There has also been a significant increase in female workforce participation in Singapore. From 50.9% in 2003, female labour workforce participation has gone up to 61.1% in 2019. A major reason behind the improvement in the participation of women in the workforce has been the recognition of their contributions and capabilities by governing and non-governing bodies alike. The launch of the Singapore Board Diversity Report is another step forward in this direction.
While the Parliament of Singapore enacted the Protection of Harassment Act in 2014 to criminalize stalking, harassment and other anti-social behaviour, there is no law specific to the workplace. AWARE’s Ms. Hingorani has suggested the introduction of a new Workplace Equality Act that would cover a wide range of issues, including but not limited to discrimination, workplace harassment, reporting grievances, remediation, and disciplinary mechanisms, ensuring that employees have all needed outlets, should they face any form of harassment/discrimination. Companies may also choose to move beyond state legislation to form their policies and take a pro-active approach to gender sensitization and inclusivity. Setting up anonymous complaint portals, a strategic internal communications plan, and adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment & discrimination are key to giving employee grievances a chance to be heard, to ensure that they are aware of their rights in the workplace, and for improved corporate team building.
A gender-diverse workspace is equally beneficial to people across the gender spectrum, as they will make space for more holistic participation in family life, and more productive, balanced teams at work. After all, as Minister Grace Fu rightfully said, “Gender equality is not a “women’s matter”.