More women in top jobs could boost economy by $26b: Report

File photo showing a lunch crowd at Singapore's central business district.
File photo showing a lunch crowd at Singapore's central business district.PHOTO: ST FILE

Varsities, firms can spur females to pursue Stem careers, it says

Increasing female representation in top-paying jobs and high-growth industries could add more than $26 billion to Singapore's economy by 2025 - representing additional growth of 5 per cent per year.

The numbers come from a report out yesterday from McKinsey Global Institute, which found that Singaporean women are under-represented in the upper echelons of some booming sectors.

Universities and companies could address this by implementing measures to encourage girls and young women to pursue what are called Stem careers - those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the report noted.

McKinsey Global Institute noted that women here are least represented in high-growth sectors, with the exception of the finance and insurance industries, where there is almost parity between males and females.

The report also calculated a gender parity score for all Asia-Pacific countries using 15 indicators of gender inequality at work and three types of gender equality in society - essential services and enablers of economic opportunity; legal protection and political voice; and physical security and autonomy.

Singapore's score was 0.68, well above the Asia-Pacific overall at 0.44 and slightly lagging behind the Philippines, which led the region at 0.73. "I actually think Singapore... does well in Stem," said Ms Diaan-Yi Lin, managing partner of McKinsey's Singapore office.

"Singapore has a lot of the structural things done right. For example, we have all-girls schools. The probability of girls in an all-girls schools continuing with science is much higher than in a mixed school. We know that the participation in junior colleges is still very good. But for whatever reason, they still shy away from jobs."

The report found that Singaporean girls are relatively less interested in Stem careers than their male counterparts.

For example, only 32 per cent of undergraduates in the National University of Singapore's School of Computing are female. Nanyang Technological University's demographic is similar, with women making up just 27 per cent of its 2015-2016 computer science course.

University policies can be reviewed to encourage women to participate in Stem fields, the report suggested.

Companies also have a role to play - for instance, firms can shift internal policies to help women pursue Stem careers even if they do not have a Stem background.

Women can also take ownership of their own careers. Ms Lin suggested using SkillsFuture credits to enrol in Stem-related programmes. Rather than taking up general courses in leadership skills or presentation, digital marketing or technical courses could also prove useful, she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'More women in top jobs could boost economy by $26b: Report'. Print Edition | Subscribe