Companies will benefit if more women are in leadership positions: Grace Fu

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, speaking at a virtual event held by DBS on March 11, 2022 to mark International Women's Day. PHOTO: DBS

SINGAPORE - Women should work towards taking up more leadership positions in companies as it would benefit these organisations' decision-making processes, said Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment.

While this is necessary, there may be a price to pay.

For Ms Fu, taking up such roles meant that she had missed out on the first steps one of her children took.

However, the minister still encouraged women to step up, emphasising the importance of gender inclusivity in the workplace. Companies with more women in the board invest more in renewable energy, and are better at setting long-term goals, she noted.

Ms Fu was speaking at a virtual event titled "Inclusive Leadership for a Sustainable Future", held by DBS on Friday (March 11).

Organised to mark International Women's Day, which was on Tuesday this year, the event featured opening remarks by the minister, followed by a fireside chat discussing audience questions. The dialogue was moderated by Ms Sharon Tan, the executive director of DBS' consumer banking group.

Ms Fu, Singapore's first female to helm a full ministry, encouraged women to step up to leadership opportunities, both locally and in overseas postings.

In order for this to be successful, she stressed the importance of mutual cooperation between spouses and within families. "We really need to find that balance of roles in the family," she said.

Ms Fu encouraged companies to incorporate allowances and accommodation for women's life experiences into their business management structures.

She said: "Organisations that can accommodate the full wishes of employees will be successful. Structural impediments need to be removed, so women can take care of families. I'm really happy to see companies like DBS supporting employees through their life cycles."

Women make up 40 per cent of senior management at DBS and 50 per cent of its total workforce. The company offers flexible working arrangements and maternity leave to support employees who manage commitments outside of work.

It is also important for employers to understand that an employee's potential can be rekindled when she rejoins the workforce at a later point in time, Ms Fu noted.

The minister went on to caution firms against having homogeneous leadership boards, saying that this may be perceived as having blind spots.

"Companies have to strike a good balance, accommodating diversity in gender, race, as well as foreign and local employees, so that they optimise the decision-making process. If this ethos is incorporated across business management, then I think decisions will be much more resilient."

The minister also emphasised the importance of women standing up for each other in the workplace.

She mentioned how she witnessed a man forcing a younger female colleague to engage in drinking during a corporate event. Ms Fu later told the man that his behaviour had been unacceptable.

She went on to encourage women to try out new activities and programmes to give themselves space to grow.

"As a student, I was the kind who did most of my learning outside the classroom," said Ms Fu, who recalled being a kinaesthetic learner in her younger days, having participated in choir, dance, canoeing and more while in school.

She said: "In every single sphere, each one of us has the ability to pave the way and show the journey for the next generation of women behind us."

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