TL;DR – Women today are still combating work discrimination. Most of them succumb to giving up their careers after having children and find it hard to return to the workforce later. Meanwhile, employees in companies offering flexible work or work-from-home arrangements are abusing the system. How can we achieve workplace harmony so that both female employees and their employers will have a win-win outcome?
NTUC’s initiatives – U SME and U Women and Family (U WAF) organised a discussion with female SME leaders. Through their conversations, NTUC hopes to understand the challenges faced by employers and explore how jobs can be redesigned so that women with caregiving responsibilities need not give up their careers. Such solutions will also encourage women to return to the workforce.
Retaining women in the workforce and attracting more women to return
Many SMEs today are facing staffing issues. They claim that it is close to impossible to find workers, especially at the last minute when their employees are struck by Covid or when employees call in for urgent leave to care for their ailing parents.
During the breakout discussion, it was heartening to learn that a logistics and supply chain company that is known to be male-dominated with heavy-lifting jobs has adopted digital solutions and automation in an effort to attract more female workers. Logistical arrangements in the e-commerce space can be done remotely which benefits working mothers with caregiving responsibilities. The integration of machinery did the heavy lifting so women can manage the warehouse with ease. After all, women are known to be more organised and meticulous than most men.
Flexible work arrangements & Trust culture go hand in hand
Integrating flexible work arrangements cannot be stressed enough. This allows caregivers to plan their time to fulfil responsibilities at work and home.
Companies can explore redesigning jobs so that caregivers can have the flexibility to pursue a career while caring for their families. In the discussion, some companies attest that redesigning working arrangements and digitalising work processes have made remote working possible. And this allowed them to retain workers who would have resigned after giving birth.
With flexible work and work-from-home arrangements on the table, come some pitfalls. There are employees who have abused the system and companies faced expensive losses because of their irresponsibility.
Trust between employers and employee is fundamental for this arrangement to work. Solutions like implementing HR policies and key performing indicators or methods of check-ins with employees can allow companies to keep their employees accountable.
Challenges faced by women in the workplace:
- Sandwiched by caregiving responsibilities
Women make up 60 per cent of caregivers in Singapore, of which most are aged between 45 to 59. In dual-income households, women are five times more likely than men to be managing household chores and caregiving responsibilities.
By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above. With families becoming smaller, the old-age support ratio is projected to decrease from 4.8 today to 2.7 in 2030. Caregiving responsibilities will become more extensive as our society ages.
- Passed over for a promotion or career advancement
Working mothers face work-related penalties – employers question their loyalty or competency.
Stretched with work and family commitments, mothers have little to no personal time and often give up training opportunities. Taking on extra projects would be impossible, to say the least. Incidentally, they will find themselves penalized for career advancements or pay increases.
- Biases against women with career gaps
Many women in leadership roles give up their careers after having children. They prioritized their family needs and caregiving responsibilities.
After their children have grown up, they find themselves faced with tokenism, stereotyping, and unconscious biases in the recruitment process.
Today’s conversation gave women business leaders an outlet to air their aspirations and the challenges faced from an employer standpoint. With the interest to carve a new way forward, NTUC will work with such leaders to create a better work environment and arrangement for women.
More can be done to support our businesses and women at work. Your voice can make an impact. Click here to share your hopes and aspirations through the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations.