TL; DR – Many women still face challenges in the workplace today.
Singapore’s Labour Force Participation Rate among women has steadily increased between 2010 to 2020, from 60.2% in 2010 to 61.2% in 2020, indicating that more and more women are joining the workforce. Social evolution in terms of shifting gender norms and societal expectations has paved the way for more women to be financially stable.
Workplaces have progressively become more inclusive, helping women trade their traditional role as the caregiver of the family for gender equality, where they can aspire to climb the corporate ladder.
However, women still face challenges in the workplace.
Gender Pay Gap
There is unilateral agreement that people should be paid equally if they are doing the same type and amount of work. However, the fact that gender pay gaps exist reflects some perceived notion that women in the same industry, doing the same type of work are “less valued” than their male counterparts. In Singapore, full-time working female employees between 25 and 54 earned 14.4% lower than their male counterparts. This is adjusted down to 4.3% after accounting for human capital and labour market factors. Although the gap is narrowing, at almost 2% less than the pay gap in 2018, there is more to be done to achieve pay equity.
Gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace
Gender discrimination is, unfortunately, more commonplace in the work environment than we sometimes care to admit. A study conducted by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) showed that 4 in 10 women faced gender discrimination in the workplace while only 1 in 10 men felt they faced the same. In another survey of 3,000 participants by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the People’s Action Party (PAP), it found that 23% of respondents believed that there is prevalent gender discrimination in the workplace. 1 in 10 women surveyed said there were passed over for a promotion or career advancement opportunities.
Strides towards making the workplace more inclusive would require organisations to be conscious of the potential gender biases and discriminatory practices that exist in their workplace and a top-down approach in eliminating these. Management can consider an undertaking to educate staff and also making sure pay scales and performance review processes are transparent. At a larger societal level, mindset shifts towards seeing women as equal partners in the workforce will help to further narrow the gap.
Workplace support such as flexible working arrangements
Although the shifting of cultural norms has seen a more even split in household responsibilities between working fathers and mothers, many working mothers would still appreciate more workplace support as they juggle work and family responsibilities. Rapid digital transformation during the pandemic has also shown employers that it is indeed possible to redesign jobs that fulfill workers’ caregiving needs while balancing work requirements.
NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng addressed the media on last month in a closed-door interactive session with union leaders to share the launch of #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, a year-long series of engagements where NTUC will engage workers from different walks of life to understand their needs and concerns. As working people of Singapore, you can help NTUC better identify how it can co-create the future of work and address challenges in the workplace! Share your thoughts here.
The Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Pratices (TAFEP) has also listed a variety of Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) that organisation can choose to implement. Some of the suggested arrangements are staggered work hours, creative/flexible work scheduling around caregiving responsibilities, job-sharing, telecommuting etc. These recommendations go a long way in empowering women in the workplace.
What more can be done
The Women Supporting Women (WSW) Mentorship Programme was recently launched to support more women workers. The initiative gives job seekers which include fresh graduates, women who are returning back to work and mid-career switchers an opportunity to be mentored by women leaders across various industries. To date, over 90 mentors have been deployed!
“There are women in our community looking to develop themselves in professional and personal capacities but face various challenges going back to the workforce – be it the need to juggle caregiving responsibilities or the fear of being out of touch with the workforce after taking an extended break from work. NTUC recognises these concerns and believes that the expansion of this mentorship programme will provide more women with the necessary support and guidance they need to thrive and reach their fullest potential in their professional and personal lives.” ~Labour MP Yeo Wan Ling
Such initiatives allow more support to be availed for women in the workplace and it goes a long way in helping them overcome challenges in the workplace. It is the author’s hope that women will continue to be empowered to fulfill their career aspirations while juggling caregiving and home responsibilities.