What are the three things working women want in Singapore?

With the fight for talent in Singapore at an all-time high, organisations still have a way to go to get the most out of a thriving female talent pool. Despite having more female CEOs and CFOs than many other markets, the reality is that women still remain underrepresented, particularly in leadership roles.

So what needs to change for women at work? This International Women’s Day, PwC specifically aims to help answer this critical question with the release of its Time to talk research report.

It highlights some very positive findings when we consider Singapore’s female talent pool; such as their strong leadership aspirations; with 73% of women saying it is important to them that they get to the top of their chosen career. Women are proactively pursuing their career goals by negotiating for raises, promotions and seeking out the experiences seen as critical to advancing their career, and the survey revealed it is working; there is a strong positive correlation to show the women who negotiate are getting what they ask for, particularly access to high visibility projects and stretch assignments.

These findings are extremely positive, but we are not yet seeing this confidence and ambition translate, based on the current rates of female progress.

In my IWD blog in 2015, I suggested that to increase gender equality we all have a role to do more than ‘talk the talk’ – we must “walk the talk” to accelerate gender diversity.

However, with only one in two women in Singapore surveyed convinced that employers are doing enough to progress gender diversity, we clearly are not doing enough.

Over the past few days, I’ve been reflecting further on what more needs to be done.

At a recent preview of the results in Singapore, we also had a chance to talk to some senior leaders on what they thought.

The report proposes an ecosystem centred on three interdependent elements – transparency and trust; strategic support; and life, family care and work that will help all employers accelerate change.

Supporting networks go a long way

I need your support , not protection #whatshesaid

Of the three elements, strategic support was one which I could personally relate to. This was also a topic which resonated with our panellists.

The report suggests that a woman’s strategic support structure is like a series of circles. In the middle is the individual woman: an ambitious skilled professional who needs the confidence to put herself forward to achieve her career and personal aspirations. Fundamental to this is the support she gets from the circles around her: her personal support and workplace networks.

Outside of work, she needs a supportive personal network – her parents, partner, friends and peers that reinforce her career ambitions and work/life decisions – in my case, my pillar of strength is my husband.

At work, she not only needs a manager who will help develop her talent and advocate on her behalf, but also role models of both genders to look up to and learn from, mentors who help her navigate the path to success, and sponsors who can push her to the next level. Fortunately, I have had senior male sponsors and mentors who have supported me along my career path.

This element also resonated with our panellist, Georgette Tan of MasterCard who said “having female women support women is critical, but having male support women is very special. When men take up the challenge, then we are on the right track”.

Two other themes in the report which echoed with me were:

1. Accelerated developmental opportunities – time to LeanIn?

The report highlights that 51% of women in Singapore don’t self-promote themselves at work and expect their work to be recognised as a symbol of their promotion aspirations and for their manager to approach them. I too am guilty of this.

Fortunately, I when I did ask for a greater challenge, I had the opportunity to work on an iconic client. I also worked on a number of high profile engagements with tight deadlines, and agreed to do a mobility assignment back to Australia. Whilst these were challenging, I learnt a lot, and got exposure to a lot of different people. These experiences allowed me to acquire the skills and experience I needed to progress.

Our panellist, my fellow partner, Sakaya Johns Rani also said that support that she got from the firm, especially when her daughters were younger allowed her to advance to her current level in the firm.

Unfortunately, women in Singapore aren’t getting as many accelerated developmental opportunities as their global counterparts, and most feel that their managers don’t advocate on their behalf enough for opportunities such as promotions, or provide enough networking support.

2. Personal support is critical

In my earlier blog on the how cultural differences influence the leadership styles of successful women, I noted that successful woman in Asia embrace the value of “harmony” – having inclusive networks which operate like an “integrated web”. If any of the elements of the web are out of sync, such as team, sports, family or work, then the entire web is impacted.

What was surprising from the recent results is that Singapore ranked the lowest when compared to their global and Asian colleagues in terms of receiving support from both partners and wider family members.

Leveraging HeForShe, collectively, we all have a role to bring equality home – our partners and family members are key to support women’s careers. Our panel also reminded us that women shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.

Gautam Banerjee and Magdelene Chua

Finally, all our efforts will not be effective if trust and transparency doesn’t exist. Our panel agreed with the remark that to make progress, women must be able to trust their organisation and family to support them.

Are we really doing enough? The report suggests that women in Singapore are sceptical. Gender equality is everyone’s issue – we all collectively need to take action to accelerate the progress of Singapore’s wonder women.

First shared on 8 March 2018 on LinkedIn here.