Research has shown that having women in the workforce is an important step towards raising household income and encouraging economic development in countries as a whole.
Canada, Australia and the United States are examples of countries that have relatively high female participation rates, and these countries consistently rank high on the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index.
Changing workplace policies, regulations and laws have benefited women in the labour market. The income gap between men and women in Singapore is also narrowing.
With Singaporean residents accounting for 43 per cent of the employed residents’ workforce, companies cannot afford to neglect this group of professionals and more needs to be done to create a culture that will cater to the needs of the working mother.
Filling the gaps
According to Randstad’s 2010 World of Work report, an increasing number of companies in Singapore believe the largest leadership challenge is to retain employees. Yet, few companies have actively put in place the structures and policies needed to retain women and to encourage them to stay in the workplace.
The global financial crisis has shown companies the power of the part-time worker — the benefit of a flexible workforce. Flexibility benefits professional women looking to re-enter the workforce or those seeking flexi-work options because of family commitments.
This is a win-win situation for women and their employers. According to Randstad’s World of Work report, a disconnect exists in Singapore as companies here do not hire part-time women workers as actively as their counterparts in Australia and New Zealand.
Women can fill in the gaps where there are skill shortages but companies need to re-look at their employment policies and existing culture to enable this to happen. The key is for companies to get the balance right.
Women seeking flexible work should research a company’s hiring policies and workplace culture. Companies that routinely conduct internal culture surveys among employees can more effectively address the demands of women in their organisation. They are more likely to proactively incorporate guidelines for flexible and part-time work as part of the company’s policies.
Women who want to take advantage of flexible or part-time work need to also be able to communicate their value to the potential employer. Employers in turn need to gain confidence and appreciate the benefits that flexible workers can bring, especially in terms of fitting into the existing culture of the organisation. Once you show your value, commitment and loyalty to the organisation, employers are more inclined to hire you.
According to Randstad’s World of Work report, a company’s brand is the most critical factor in attracting the best talent. An employer’s brand must reflect the organisation’s underlying values, ethos and employment experience.
If the actual experience women have working with the company lives up to its projected brand values, not only will they be motivated to perform well, word of mouth will also be the company’s most powerful tool for attracting talent.
Traditionally male-dominated industries such as IT have benefited from women in the workplace. Last year, according to the Ministry of Education, women comprised 64 per cent of graduates in the natural, physical and mathematical sciences and 63 per cent in architecture and building, highlighting the necessity for companies to ensure workplace policies cater to this group of employees.
Additionally, women are better than men at cultivating and maintaining relationships and showing empathy. Being able to see the world from another person’s perspective is useful, especially for management roles. Successful leaders in the new economy are those with advanced social and emotional skills, otherwise known as emotional intelligence.
The challenge for women in achieving a work-life balance is the same everywhere. While the Government paves the way for change, organisations must adapt to ensure they attract and retain talent to create a diverse workforce.