TL;DR – To better support women workers, Madam Halimah encouraged employers to implement family-care leave… Psst, when it becomes a norm, then it would be easier to get it turned into a law that says every company must provide such leave!
After an extensive debate, Parliament earlier this year, the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development as a whole-of-nation plan to build a fairer and more inclusive society was endorsed. It listed 25 action plans to tackle gender equality with a pointed focus on creating fairer workplaces and providing relief to caregivers. Today, are there ways that can help women better balance their personal and work commitments without the judgement that’s often tagged to it?
At a recent dialogue with NTUC Women’s Committee Leaders at the Istana, 29 women unionists joined President Halimah Yacob for the fifth such dialogue to discuss the well-being of workers and challenges they face. There is a lot of data tracking the percentage of women workers in the workforce and their salaries, but that data doesn’t reflect the full picture: It doesn’t capture how women workers feel, and the struggles they face. Given the many roles they play, how can we as a society better support them?
Influencing policies and decisions that affect women and Singapore as a whole
Ms Yeo Wan Ling, the Director of U SME and U Women and Family at NTUC has spoken extensively about support for women in the workplace over the years. She also recently engaged workers at the Women Supporting Women Kick-off Session to understand more about their challenges in their various capacities.
When women face challenges in the workplace, who can they turn to?
Having spent 33 years of her career in the labour movement, Madam Halimah shared that women unionists have a strong voice both at the workplace and in society to influence policies and decisions that affect women and Singapore as a whole! At the dialogue session, a union leader also highlighted the need for equal workplace opportunities. She said women leaders are critical in ensuring that grievances of female workers are heard, and inequalities are addressed.
“We need to change the mindset about how people look at men and women. For instance, caregiving roles and domestic work are still very much under the purview of women,” she added.
“People need to be able to continue being mothers and daughters.”
Family Care Leave – Will this help caregivers who are workers too?
Another union leader said caregiving could also affect working women. Indeed, the need to take time off work (for caregiving responsibilities) can lead to lags in work experience and career progression, and consequently, earnings for many women.
Madam Halimah said caregiving should be a shared responsibility, and employers have an important role to play as well.
She encouraged employers to implement family-care leave, which provides employees time off to care for loved ones, in workplaces. “When more employers do so and it becomes a norm, then it would be easier to get it turned into a law that says every company must provide such leave,” she added. Madam Halimah said she hopes to see more understanding employers who are supportive of workers with caregiving responsibilities. If you ask me, the situation is much better today than it was decades ago, but we really should look at the facts on the ground now, and see how we can make things better.
Everyone should have equal opportunities at work, where promotions are based on merit. Building family-friendly workplaces can be part of the journey. Well, I’d say yes. It will definitely eradicate any unconscious biases by management! Agree? If you have any input on how we can make workplaces more family-friendly, do share!