25th Aug 15
The need for greater gender diversity in middle management and corporate boards is a growing concern both globally and in Singapore. While women constitute half of the world’s population, only a handful makes it to the upper echelons of the corporate world.
As women move up the corporate ladder, “something disturbing happens” as a report from Bain and Company puts it. Despite women entering the workforce in large numbers, they steadily disappear while climbing the rungs of the earnings ladder.
In Singapore, although the rate of females' participation in the labor force has risen over the decade from 50.9% in 2003 to 58.1% in 2013, women hold only 8.3% of directorships on the boards of Singapore Exchange (SGX)-listed companies. In fact, 57% of the company boards had no women at all in 2014, according to a report by the Diversity Task Force.
Yet, the ability to retain and develop the talents of not only men, but also women, is essential. Women bring an alternative voice to the table that is important in decision making. US high-tech company Cisco Systems shares the view that a balanced representation of women is valuable to teams, stating that diversity leads to more innovation, more “out-of-the-box” thinking, and more collaboration.
There has also been various research showing the financial benefits that women in leadership bring about for institutions. Companies with high representation of women on the board of directors outperform those with low representation by 84% on return on sales (ROS), 60% on return on invested capital (ROIC), and 46% on return on equity (ROE), according to research by Catalyst, a United States-based non-profit firm.
Likewise, the NUS Business School and BoardAgender affirm the economic benefits of having women on the board, drawing positive relations between the ratio of women in the boardroom and SGX-listed firms’ return on assets (ROA) and ROE in the three subsequent years from 2009 to 2012, as according to the Singapore Board Diversity Report 2013: Time for Women to Rise.
The role of institutions in providing the policies to promote diversity and inclusion is crucial. To overcome the challenges of dual responsibilities at home and at work, institutions can introduce flexible work schemes to help working mothers integrate their career and family lives together.
Given today’s technology tools that enable people to be connected regardless of where a person works, this is a progressive move towards greater efficiency in response to new business contexts and work life.
Citi, for instance, ensures that staff productivity is not measured by face time in the office. The Citi Work Strategies (CWS) Programme gives employees the flexibility to choose how, where, and when they work.
By establishing clear expectations and a system of trust between employer and employee, this allows employees to attain a work-life balance while at the same time continuing to perform, excel, and grow in their careers.
To help women to believe in their ability to succeed in leadership roles, institutions can provide developmental programmes that create women role models and empower women at all levels. The Deloitte Women’s network is a case in point, where members gain access to role models and mentors within the firm and are provided with the opportunity to build on development areas that are relevant to women in today’s business world through internal events.
Similarly, the Women at Microsoft Employee Resource Group provides diversity initiatives and employee development events that give women employees with an opportunity to learn, discuss common goals, and connect with one another.
Institutions can also offer specialised programmes to facilitate the development of senior women, so as to prepare them for leadership positions in the company.
At Citi, the Women’s Leadership Development Programme and Women Leading Citi Programme seek to train and engage senior women leaders through advocacy and sponsorship. It is a three-day classroom training with a cohort of professors at UCLA and participants have shown better advancement compared to their peers.
More needs to be done to close the gap between men and women, and institutions can play a leading role to equalise opportunities and foster a culture of gender diversity in the workplace. Those who are able to deliver on the untapped potential of women will be better positioned to achieve organisational success and gain a competitive edge.
Original Article: sbr.com.sg