As International Women’s Day approaches, we should keep in mind that gender equality in business does make good economic sense. However, despite researches emphasizing the benefits of having more women in the workforce, women still face significant barriers in achieving job-related opportunities.
In LinkedIn’s Opportunity Index 2021, women respondents cited lack of time (62 percent), a difficult job market (58 percent), a lack of required skills (55 percent), and guidance from their network (50 percent) as crucial barriers that hinder from achieving opportunities. In spite of these challenges, women are prepared to work hard, but they desire equal access to opportunities as men. In fact, women see these two as the most important aspects (82 percent and 76 percent respectively) to getting ahead in life.
The survey also noted that while nearly 6 in 10 Singaporeans saying that gender equality has improved compared to their parents’ time, many still feel gender bias continues to exist in the workplace. For example, women are known to have fewer career advancement opportunities and are paid less than men in their profession. This figure is more apparent among women and working mothers. In fact, almost 6 in 10 women in Singapore have experienced that their gender played a role in missing out on opportunities, promotion and pay.
LinkedIn’s research suggested that this mindset may stem from broader societal perceptions around gender. While 70 percent think that gender equality is an important value for a fair society, half of the respondents believe that it has already come far enough and has been achieved to a satisfactory degree. Furthermore, over 4 in 10 think that gender equality is impossible to achieve, and this sentiment is higher among men. This potentially shows that Singaporeans feel not much more can or should be done to further gender equality.
Commenting on this finding, Feon Ang, Vice President, LinkedIn‘s Talent and Learning Solutions, APAC, said, “Singapore’s workforce has taken a hit due to COVID-19 across the board, women included. The lack of time is the top barrier for women today — likely due to having to juggle remote working and family responsibilities. We also know that women are seeking to get ahead in life, and want equal access to opportunity as men. As a society, we need to start changing our societal perceptions on gender. In our organisations, too, we need to level the playing field for women. When we succeed, the economy and our organisations succeed as well. The government has announced that 2021 as the year of Celebrating SG Women — and this is an opportune time for all of us to carry this torch forward together.”
To address this issue, businesses’ have an important role to play to bridge the gender gap and ensure equitable recovery for all.
Encourage open conversations on diversity
LinkedIn’s data shows that only 14% of working professionals in Singapore strongly agree that gender diversity is a priority in their organisation. In Singapore, there is a growth of senior leaders taking the lead and initiating conversations about diversity on the platform. In addition, content on diversity gets on average 144 percent more engagement than the average company post. This is a positive sign that people are receptive to senior leaders’ call for gender diversity, which could ultimately help address the gender gap and ensure equitable recovery for all.
2 in 5 Singaporeans agree that women have fewer career advancement opportunities, and are paid less than men in their profession. At LinkedIn, we have programmes that support our community of women in their professional growth. For example, EmpowerIn is a leadership development programme to help high-performing women realise their full potential at the workplace. After three very successful cycles of the programme, we are committed to running our fourth cycle virtually this year.
With the majority of women still the primary caretaker at home, more expect organisations to provide them with work from home (40%), reduced schedules (35%) and part time schedule (29%) options. Expectation for extended maternity policies is also a strong sentiment among working mothers. This suggests that women are aware and more vocal about the support they need from the workplace in order to balance work and family responsibilities effectively.
“There is strength in numbers. When more organisations come together, we can do more to help bring equitable recovery for all. It always starts with one small step — from encouraging open conversations on diversity and equality, and advocating for practical initiatives from flexible working hours to mentoring programmes. We must foster the right culture and values in our organisation, to ensure that everyone progresses together, and no one is left behind. When we do this, we can achieve so much more,” said Ang.