Private firms must 'do more to nurture women leaders'

Office workers in the central business district area.
Office workers in the central business district area. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore is still behind many developed nations on women's representation in leadership.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health Amy Khor yesterday called on the public and private sectors to "better support women in their climb up the corporate ladder".

Dr Khor said the public sector needs to promote an environment in which it is easier for men and women to juggle career and family commitments. Private firms need to adapt workplaces to support staff needs, and adopt human resource policies that give women fair consideration for jobs at all levels.

She was speaking at a regional conference organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Bureau for Employers' Activities and the Singapore National Employers Federation.

Women hold just 9 per cent of board seats here, and although the figure has been rising slowly, it is still behind the global average of 12 per cent, according to a recent Deloitte Global report.

"Prioritising the development of female leaders is not about striving to appear fair and equal," said Dr Khor. "It is not merely a female issue, nor should it be seen as affirmative action for women.

"Rather, it is about expanding and optimising the limited talent pool in any organisation."

A work-life resource portal will be launched next year to help workers and bosses better understand ways to implement flexible work arrangements, Dr Khor said.

Ms Deborah France-Massin, di-rector of the Bureau of Employers' Activities, presented an ILO report which showed that a gender pay gap still exists in Singapore, with women earning 11 per cent less than men on average.

In comparison, there is no gap in the Philippines, but there is a 33 per cent gap in India.

"Companies should look at policies on training in the workplace to allow women to acquire a general grounding in management which will allow them to climb the corporate ladder if that's what they want," Ms France-Massin told the media separately.

Citi Singapore's head of human resources, Ms Evangeline Chua, one of the panellists at the conference, said three out of four managing directors being promoted by the bank this year are female.

Citi has several leadership programmes which provide networking opportunities and career coaching specifically for women who are keen to move up. She added: "We try to profile (women) and make them more visible so that they can move up into leadership roles."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'Private firms must 'do more to nurture women leaders''. Print Edition | Subscribe