Seizing Opportunities To Harness The “Whole Of The Sky”

Supporting women in the workforce will be key to driving economic growth in talent-scarce Singapore.

2021 was designated the “Year of Celebrating SG Women” with a focus on celebrating not only the progress and potential of women in Singapore, but also the champions who have worked hard to make the city-state a great place for women to live, work, and thrive.

While there have been positive strides in equalising household duties, women continue to be the natural first port of call when caregiving needs arise. In an SBF survey released in September 2021, 63% of women considered or had taken a career break due to family commitments. For those who chose to take a career break, re-entry into the workforce was neither easy nor seamless, with the challenges exacerbated for women without extended family support.

Helping women get back to work and remain in the workforce is important for the continued success of businesses.

Female labour force participation is essential to (i) drive economic growth and income security, and (ii) counter the shrinking labour force in economies with ageing populations. Both value propositions are relevant in the context of Singapore’s economic and population trajectory.

It is vital for Singapore businesses to harness the entire workforce, or the “whole of the sky”, to mitigate staffing shortages in a talent-scarce environment.

As powerful agents of change, Singapore companies can act to understand the unique challenges faced by women, and design policies to empower all employees to perform to their fullest potential.

Building a gender-balanced business drives business resilience

There is a strong business imperative for promoting diversity in the workplace.

Businesses are better equipped to respond innovatively to complex challenges as employees with diverse backgrounds bring unique perspectives. The average return on equity for companies with a diverse corporate board is 25%, compared to 9% for a uniform board, according to a report by professional services firm EY.

To help build diversity within their ranks, organisations can unlock new strategies for talent attraction and retention. This can help to improve access to alternative talent pools and reduce costly employee turnover.

Improving the pipeline of diverse leadership representatives also creates a virtuous cycle, as senior female leaders are more likely to embrace and champion employee-friendly policies and programmes.

An opportunity to recalibrate processes to support

As employees in Singapore progressively return to offices, businesses have an excellent opportunity to recalibrate some of their processes to encourage more employees to remain in the workforce, or to facilitate the re-entry of women after a career break.

Buy-in from senior leadership is integral to the success of any gender-equity policy. By deepening knowledge and metrics to measure success factors of their workforce, business leaders will be better able to promote conducive conditions for working caregivers.

Businesses can also adopt the Tripartite Standards for (i) Work-Life Harmony, (ii) Flexible Work Arrangements and (iii) Unpaid Leave for Unexpected Care Needs from the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP). To support the adoption of these Tripartite Standards, TAFEP organises regular complimentary clinics for businesses and professionals who require guidance on the adoption and implementation of practices at their workplaces.

Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs), in particular, can be adopted by businesses to support their employees in achieving work-life harmony. It is essential to recognise that FWAs come in a myriad of forms. Crucially, leaders can select the optimal policy that meets the needs of both company and employees. Leaders can also continually convey the company’s perspectives to address employees’ evolving needs and extensively communicate policies so that employees can leverage them.

Uplifting Women in the Workforce: Investing in the Success of Women in Singapore

A diversity-centric agenda is a business imperative. It enables businesses to tap on the best talents to unleash their full potential to solve fresh challenges and unlock new opportunities.

Insights from this article are based on Singapore Business Federation’s new policy paper “Uplifting Women in the Workforce: Investing in the Success of Women in Singapore”, which proposes 12 recommendations on the business, ecosystem, national and individual level to help create a more inclusive workforce, advance women empowerment in the workplace and bolster women entrepreneurs.

The recommendations reflect the collective aspirations of 1,140 individuals and 116 business leaders from businesses, trade associations and chambers (TACs), government agencies and labour unions to accelerate the progress of working women in their career and entrepreneurial journeys.

For the full paper, please visit here

By Mr Albert Tsui, Executive Director, Advocacy & Policy Division, Singapore Business Federation.