Perception of gender gap highest in Singapore compared with Indonesia and Malaysia

56 per cent of Singapore professional women believe females are under-represented in senior management, poll results show.
56 per cent of Singapore professional women believe females are under-represented in senior management, poll results show.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - More female executives in Singapore perceive there to be significant gender diversity gaps amongst the senior leadership in their company, compared with their Southeast Asian peers.

That was according to the latest survey findings by The Economist Intelligence Unit that was released on Friday morning (Mar 04).

The poll, sponsored by HSBC Singapore, found that 56 per cent of Singapore professional women believe females are under-represented in senior management, against the 44 per cent for both Indonesia and Malaysia.

Respondents in Singapore estimated that only 26 per cent of senior executives in their companies are women, compared with 32 per cent in Malaysia and 34 per cent in Indonesia.

The survey, which was conducted in December, polled 300 female executives - a hundred each from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

HSBC said half of the respondents work in middle management positions, 32 per cent in senior management and 18 per cent at a managing director/general manager or C-suite level.

Women professionals in the three countries also felt they need to do more to get equal recognition, with this being perceived most keenly among mid-level workers.

Half of the Singapore women polled said they had to work harder than their male co-workers to receive comparable recognition. This was lower than the 58 per cent in Indonesia, and 59 per cent in Malaysia.

Commenting on the report, HSBC Singapore chief executive Guy Harvey-Samuel, said: "It is clearly incumbent on all of us at a senior level in the corporate world, whether male or female, to continue to work hard on mentoring and providing equal opportunities for all our female colleagues."

However, the survey also found that most senior women professionals do not see gender equality as part of their formal responsibilities.

More than three-quarters of the respondents believe it is important to give advice and training to women on specific leadership skills, but only 16 per cent said they view this as part of their job and have done it many times.

Poll findings further showed that while 63 per cent of the senior women executives believe a firm needs to make a commitment to promote women to leadership, just 12 per cent of them said they saw it as part of their job and have done it.

"Singapore women - particularly those at senior levels - are more likely to focus on their own career progression than the broader gender diversity issue, with the focus increasing the more senior they get", HSBC said in a statement announcing the findings.

According to the report, 69 per cent of senior women professionals in Malaysia and 74 per cent in Indonesia felt it is their responsibility to help other women.

However, only 54 per cent of Singapore women saw it as their responsibility.

The respondents indicated that leadership training and greater support and recognition for women are important tools to promote gender diversity.

They also ranked being valued and rewarded for their work as the key factor that could help them achieve their professional goals.

HSBC said the survey was launched as part of the HSBC Women Leaders' Forum, and coincides with the International Women's Day on March 8, as well as the HSBC Women's Champions golf tournament to be held on March 3 to 6.

wongsy@sph.com.sg