More can be done for gender diversity at work: Grace Fu

More structured and formal programmes are needed to identify and develop talent among women in the workplace, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday.

She said this will help create a corporate culture that recognises gender diversity across senior management ranks and company boards.

"These would include training and mentorship programmes, as well as networking opportunities," she said, while calling for more to be done to effectively measure and report women's progress into senior leadership positions.

Ms Fu was speaking at the first fund-raising concert and conference - themed Women for Women - organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Career Women's Group at Resorts World Sentosa. The event aims to celebrate the strength of women from diverse professions, and was held in conjunction with International Women's Day, which falls on Wednesday.

About $100,000 was raised for the Tsao Foundation's Hua Mei Centre and the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

In her speech, Ms Fu also noted that female representation on company boards remains low, although research has shown links between greater gender diversity and better financial performance for firms.

"In Singapore, only 9.7 per cent of board seats across our listed companies are held by women," she said.

A recent study by the National University of Singapore Business School found that women on the board of Singapore-listed firms were paid an average 43 per cent less than their male counterparts.

Ms Fu said that initiatives, such as the Diversity Action Committee, which was set up in 2014, need to be further bolstered by efforts to mentor women.

Another speaker at the conference - which had seven speakers - Ms Noni Sri Ayati Purnomo, president director of Indonesian taxi operator Blue Bird Group, said: "It is important for women, in order to be able to learn more and improve themselves, to get a mentor, whether it is a female or a male.

"I'm a strong believer in equal opportunities. It is important to sometimes have quotas, just to open the door; but not for the long term, because it can backfire."

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan told The Sunday Times that women may sometimes place an "artificial glass ceiling" on themselves due to expectations at home and in the workplace.

NeXT Career Consulting Group founder Paul Heng, another human resource expert, stressed the need to change mindsets, adding that merit should be the basis for women to rise to senior ranks at work.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'More can be done for gender diversity at work: Grace Fu'. Print Edition | Subscribe