More Gender Diversity On Boards In Singapore And Asia

board diversity women asia

Credit Suisse recently reported that the number of women holding board seats in Singapore went up to 9.9%.

The bank studied the 3,400 companies that Credit Suisse covers, and found that, overall, European companies showed strong increases in boardroom gender diversity, as a result of high quotas and targets. Women hold nearly 25 percent of the continent’s board seats.

Meanwhile, the diversity progress in Asian companies had a great deal to do with the fact that they were starting from a very low threshold.

In Singapore, the numbers were the highest ever in 2015, with a 1.5 percentage point increase from 2014. Women made up 8.4 percent of the boards of Singapore’s largest companies in 2014.

Singapore’s percentage was higher than the Asian average of 8.9 percent. This number is slightly skewed, though, because Korea and Japan both have the least amount of board diversity in the world, and their percentages are included in that average.

While the increase is promising for Singapore’s diversity, it’s still outshadowed by some of its neighbors. In Malaysia, women held 13.9 percent of board seats and in Thailand, women held 12.7 percent.

These numbers are positive. However, it’s important to note a few factors:

  • The Asian average remains at less than 10 percent of female representation on boards.
  • Many companies have fallen into the habit of giving board seats and appointments to women who are already sitting members of other boards. So the same women tend to have seats on many boards.

The report also showed that boards where at least one member was a woman saw higher corporate performance, outperforming boards with only male members by 3.5 percentage points.

Additionally, if women made up 15 percent of more of a company’s senior leadership and management team, the company had a 15.3 percent return on equity. In companies where women made up less than 10 percent of the corporate executives, companies reported a return on equity of 13 percent.

Even further, companies with a female CEO had a 15.2 percent return on equity, while companies with a male CEO had a 12.8 percent return on equity.

People In Asia Don’t Want Female Bosses

female women bosses

Despite countless campaigns, seminars and movements pushing for more gender equality in the workplace, there are many places in the world where businesses are still dominated by men as compared to women.

Workplaces in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia have a long way to go in achieving gender equality.

It is a known, and unfortunate, fact that women face discrimination, biases and challenges at work.

While these are problems that women also face in the United States and countries in Western Europe, they are especially prevalent in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Unlike countries in the west, Asian countries rarely address these issues. Furthermore, as per findings from a study by Randstad Workmonitor, employees in these regions simply prefer to have a male boss over a female boss.

Randstad Workmonitor’s research measured the preferences employees have for a direct manager in their workplace.

Globally 65 percent of respondents said they preferred a male boss. In Hong Kong the number is 78 percent, with Singapore following close behind at 76 percent and Malaysia at 73 percent.

The study also looked at Japan and Greece, where a whopping 80 percent of respondents said they preferred a male boss over a female boss.

Another interesting finding is that even female respondents declared a strong preference for a male supervisor over a female one. The study found that 74 percent of women in Singapore, 74 percent of women in Hong Kong and 63 percent of women in Malaysia preferred a male boss over a female boss. This compares to the global average for female preference of 58 percent.

Despite numerous reports highlighting the huge pay gap between genders, 79 percent of employees all over the world felt that men and women who had the same job were rewarded equally. This perception was especially strong in Asia, with 81 percent of respondents in Singapore, 81 percent of respondents in Hong Kong and 83 percent of respondents in Malaysia echoing this sentiment.

Michael Smith, the managing director for Randstad Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, expressed his concern over these disparaging results.

The results show a worrying trend in this region with such strong preferences for having male bosses in the workplace, despite open discussions around the issue of gender equality going on around the world. Corporate and government initiatives are just a start, but for real change to take place, the issues around gender equality need to be recognized and mindsets need to evolve. As a staunch supporter of gender equality in the workplace, I expected to see these sentiments slowly change for the better over the coming years as traditional family structures, where the notion of men being the sole family breadwinner is dominant, are starting to be challenged in the region.”

This Activity Can Eliminate Gender Gap For Women In The Workplace

gender gap women workplace discrimination

The “glass ceiling” is still very much in force.

Despite efforts that emphasize the recruitment and development of female business leadership, as well as fair practices and elimination of bias, women still remain under-represented in top leadership levels of major businesses.

One pair of researchers discovered a facet of human psychology which may unlock the potential for women trying to advance in a competitive business setting.

The researchers, Jessica Sim (Professor at University of Wisconsin) and Zoe Kinias (Professor at INSEAD), studied two groups of incoming MBA students. They paid close attention to the effect of a particular writing exercise that was part of an orientation activity. Each group was asked to write about values. One group was instructed to focus on personal values, while the other wrote about values in general (also comprising institutional values). The results gleaned from the study were telling.

The focus of the research was how the gender gap was affected by whether a student focused on her own core values. Regular reinforcement of core values, for one group, continued throughout the academic quarter and into exam week.

It was found that the group of women who focused on general values, had a lower GPA overall than their male counterparts. However, those who focused on their own core/personal values scored equally as high as the men.

What the study reveals is a basic human condition: we strive to maintain a feeling of self-worth. Humans want respect from their peers, and they want to know that they are living a meaningful life.

Taken a step further, the study points out how members of certain groups are sometimes devalued in their professional or academic lives. For professional women who see a business culture where women aren’t equally represented at senior levels, the effect can be demoralizing. The resulting self-doubt interferes with performance and leads to a phenomenon known as “stereotype threat.”

Groups known to experience stereotype threat include women in mathematics, white men playing basketball, and also women and minorities in the work environment.

Groups who are encouraged to review their core values show a resilience against threats to their self-worthIn other words, the increased feelings of self worth negate the effect of the stereotype threat.

Sim and Kinias believe the results of the study can be a major step toward advancing the careers of women and minorities in a business setting. Even more importantly, the researchers are fine-tuning their findings in an effort to apply them to other settings.

Both women want to try to implement some form of organizational interventions that can help erase gaps in pay and achievement in the workplace. They hope that increased intervention can help shield women and minorities from the harm caused by stereotype threats, thereby giving women more tools in their efforts to break through the glass ceiling.

This Career Setup Is Unhealthy For Husbands But Good For Wives

breadwinning men women stress unhealty

Women aren’t the only ones who are harmed by gender related factors in the workplace.

A recent study by the University of Connecticut has come to the conclusion that men are also harmed. According to the research, men who took on more of a financial responsibility for the family, saw a decline in their health and psychological well-being.

While most research about the gender roles is focused on the disadvantages for women, the study results show how gendered expectations can be harmful for men too.

Simply put, if a man is expected to be the sole breadwinner, providing for the family with little or no help will have a negative impact.

Men who made significantly more than their partners were found to be the ones with the lowest level of psychological well-being and health.  During the years when both partners contributed equal financial parts to the household, men had much higher psychological and health scores.

For women, the effect of being the sole breadwinner had a positive effect on their psychological well-being. The positive effect for women increased in proportion to the percentage of income they were able to contribute.

For men, the study found that the act of breadwinning was seen as more of an obligation. The women surveyed were found to approach breadwinning as more of a sense of accomplishment or opportunity. Breadwinning is looked upon by women, according to the study, as a matter of pride, regardless of what others say or think.

Recent trends have seen both women and men serving as primary breadwinners. This has benefits that are positive for both men and women.

63% Of Working Women In Malaysia Give-Up Their Career For Family

working women jobs malaysia

According to the Women, Family and Community Ministry, 63 percent of women between the ages of 23 and 39 in Malaysia, leave their jobs after having children.

“They are in their prime. Most resign to comply with their husband’s wishes to stay at home and look after their children.

This has derailed the government’s efforts to have 59% of women in the labour force by 2020,” said Minister Rohani Karim.

Currently, the 55% of women in Malaysia are part of the working population. Approximately 70% of women attend local universities, with the majority registering in social sciences and arts courses.

This shows that there is a mis-match between the number of female graduates and those that end up working. Also they tend to earn less than men, who lean towards higher paying courses such as engineering.

Why Corporate Diversity Programs Don’t Succeed

corporate diversity programs initiatives

Despite Motorcycle Accident Lawyer designed to create a more diverse workforce, women and minorities still don’t fare much better than they did 15 years ago.

According to a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission study, the business landscape still shows a significant lack of female and minority opportunity.

Although gains were made by both groups in the year 2000, no significant gains have happened since then.  The reason for this, according to Frank Dobbin, professor of Sociology at Harvard, and Alexandra Kalev, an associate sociology professor at Tel Aviv University, is that typical big money diversity programs don’t work.

Dobbin and Kalev studied almost three decades of data, involving diversity programs in over 800 businesses, to reach their conclusion.  According to their findings, programs put into place by businesses were designed to avoid discrimination lawsuits, more than they were meant to actually increase workplace diversity.

Here are some more details of the study.

 Mandatory Training Programs Don’t Reduce Bias

Mandatory diversity training, cloaked in negative language, may be creating more problems than it’s supposed to cure.

Dobbin and Kalev cited the nearly 1,000 studies which were designed to gauge diversity training effectiveness.  Short-term results show positive results, but after a few days the training was forgotten.

Managers Use Hiring Tests To Their Advantage

Another negative aspect of diversity programs has been in the use of hiring/skill-based testing.

While meant to level the playing field for potential candidates, managers end up resenting being forced to use hiring tests. They want to be the final word when hiring someone, without having a candidate forced upon them due to test results.

In addition, some hiring managers would only administer the test to people they didn’t really want to hire, or simply ignored the test results and hired who they wanted to.

Performance Ratings Are Misused

Ostensibly, an annual review is accompanied by a rating system to encourage fair compensation and advancement of exceptional employees.  But they can also be used as a way to avoid lawsuits.

Managers are finding other ways to skirt performance ratings.  Results cited by Dobbins and Kalev noted that managers give poor rating to women and minorities, or give a high performance rating to all employees, and then promote who they want.

In businesses using performance ratings, the number of minority managers remained about the same.  The percentage of women managers shrank by 4 percent.

Ineffective Grievance Processes

While supposedly put in place as a final step in combating discrimination, grievance procedures, in many cases have only caused greater opposition.

Workers become reluctant to speak up, for fear of retaliation. Managers, hearing no grievances, end up believing that there are no problems.

Often times, employees believe company policies are the final arbiter in workplace fairness, and find grievance procedures to be excessive.

Diversity Encouragement Policies That DO Work

The research found that positive reinforcement methods for diversity programs are a more effective way for companies looking to promote diversity.

The use of holistic and voluntary training/programs also resulted in better results for diversity.

Getting hiring managers involved in college recruitment programs, targeting women and minorities, has found increasing success in diversity-minded companies.  With hiring managers, college recruitment allows their participation to be voluntary, and gives the task a positive spin.  The task of finding the best minority candidates among a college’s student population, causes hiring managers to take their campus visit more seriously.

Mentoring programs for women and minorities are helping with diversity and advancement goals, when employed. Male executives can be eager to mentor young workers, but not necessarily so when it comes to female or minority mentees.  By implementing a formal mentoring program that matches mentors with a diverse set of proteges, businesses have increased their diversity numbers.

By promoting contact between groups, encouraging social accountability, and accenting the importance of Diversity Managers as a role, researchers note that businesses were able to achieve greater workplace diversity.  Companies such as Pinterest and Airbnb achieved great success in their efforts at greater workplace diversity by implementing these programs.

When programs that browbeat companies with diversity training and negative images have been supplanted with more positive approaches, workplace diversity has thrived.  In the words of Dobbin and Kalev, “The very good news is that we know what does work, we just need to do more of it.”

Challenges Faced By Working Mothers In Singapore

working mothers challenges, an online employment marketplace, performed a survey that shows that women in Singapore face difficulties in striking a work-life balance, with 75% of working mothers spending less than 10 hours with their children during the workweek.

The primary concern these working mothers are having, is that they are missing out on their family’s everyday life. 70% of them would give up working if they had the financial means to do so.

Chook Yuh Yng, Country Manager of, says that work-life balance is the top challenge that is faced by women in the workplace. Unfortunately, most of the women have no choice but to work, because 69% of them need to support their family. They need to plan for retirement and become financially independent. Otherwise, it would be a top priority to spend time with their family.

Other challenges that women have identified is having to look after their kids while trying to build a successful career, the lack of career advancement opportunities and gender-salary gap.

66% of the respondents said that they faced gender inequality issues and experienced unfair treatment in areas such as career progression, compensation, recruitment, and performance evaluation.

One consolation in the survey, was that 65% of women say their spouses and children recognize their losses and time spent away from home.

The extra ingredient needed for women to succeed

women success leadership

Women don’t have leadership roles nearly as often as men, and there are various reasons for this.

One study, by Margarita Mayo (IE Business School), Laura Guillen (ESMT) and Natalia Karelaia (INSEAD), analyzed the judgments that colleagues made regarding the competence and warmth of people working in a project team. These people were working at a multinational software development company.

As part of their performance evaluation, the workers were evaluated by their supervisor and peers on competence and warmth.

Results showed that men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent. However, women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm.

Women must be seen as warm in order to make their competency shine and to be seen as confident and influential in the workplace. Competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.

So basically, if men display competence, then they are also seen as being confident. And the more confident they are seen as being, the more influence they have in the organization. It seems that warmth is irrelevant when it comes to men.

For women, if there was an absence of warmth, then they were not viewed as confident. When women were seen as warm and competent, they were also seen as more confident and more influential. Women’s professional performance is not evaluated independently from their personal warmth.

Overall, this study suggests that if women are to succeed in today’s workplace, then encouraging them to have the confidence just isn’t enough. Women must also go out of their way to be seen as warm in the workplace.

How childbirth and education effect your income

women income children education

For women, having children can effect certain variables of our career.

One such variable is salary/income.

Some questions that come to mind are:

  1. How does the age at which you have children impact your income over the long term?
  2. Does education play a part and to what extent?

Researchers looked into these matters, using a pool of 1.6 million Danish women from 1995 to 2009, aged 25-60, to in order to get some insights.

The first and most prominent variable that came up, was the age at which women had children.

Women who were less than 25 years, when they had their first born, saw the largest lifetime income loss. On average, over the lifetime of their careers, these mothers lost the equivalent of roughly 2.5 years of income, as a result of having a child at that stage in life.

Those who fared best were women who had their first child after age 30. Women who had minimal lifetime income loss due to having children, were 31 years of age or older, at the time they had their first child.

A college education is another variable that plays a role, albeit a relatively smaller one.

Of the women who had their first child before the age of 25, those who possessed college degrees suffered an overall income loss which was 20 percent less than those without college degrees.

Some more statistics from the study:

  • Among the group of women under 25 when they had their first child, those who attained college degrees had a lifetime income loss of -204%; those without, -252%.
  • Women who first give birth before the age of 28, with or without a college education, consistently earn less during their careers than equally educated women who do not have any children.
  • Women without a college education, who give birth after age 28 witness a short-term loss in income but eventually catch up with the lifetime earnings of women who have no children.
  • College-educated women who do not have their first children until after 31, earn more over their careers than women with no children.
  • Those women who delay their first child until age 37, add around half a year of salary to lifetime earnings.

“Children do not kill careers, but the earlier children arrive the more their mother’s income suffers. There is a clear incentive for delaying,” said Raul Santaeulalia-Llopis, one of the researcher of the study.

Who is the boldest (leader) of them all?

women boldest leaders in business

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the boldest leader of them all?

According to a study, when it comes to leadership, women are bolder than their male counterparts.

The study was conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, the CEO and President, respectively, of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership consultancy business.

The study’s findings seem to challenge the way people have thought about men and women leaders.

It has always been thought that men tend to be bolder and take more risks, while women typically avoid risk-taking in the business world.

Zenger and Folkman involved 75,000 leaders from all around the world to conduct their study.

From that, they were able to conclude that women were bolder than men in leadership roles, after using 360 degree assessments of each leader to help compile a “boldness” index.

The index was based off seven different leadership behaviors:

  1. Challenges standard approaches.
  2. Creates an atmosphere of continual improvement.
  3. Does everything possible to achieve goals.
  4. Gets others to go beyond what they originally thought possible.
  5. Energizes others to take on challenging goals.
  6. Quickly recognizes situations where change is needed.
  7. Has the courage to make needed changes.

what makes good bold leader

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, Zenger and Folkman discussed what they found.

On average, women rank in the 52nd percentile on the boldness scale while their male counterparts rank in the 49th percentile.

While a three percent difference between men and women may not seem like a significant difference, Zenger and Folkman note that the difference is significant “because ‘men take more risks’ is so ingrained in social science.”

So, where are the boldest women in business?

Women who work in sales recorded the highest boldness score, while women who work in engineering and safety recorded the lowest boldness score.

In addition, women ranked higher than men in boldness in all business functions that were measured.

In female-dominated functions such as HR, the difference between men and women was minimal. However, in male-dominated functions (e.g. R&D, facilities, IT, and manufacturing), women were much bolder leaders than men were.

women better leaders than men

To take it a step further, Zenger and Folkman analyzed the top eight male-dominated functions and the top two female-dominated functions, to find out whether women were bolder from the beginning of their career or if the boldness developed over time.

They found that women who were 30 and younger in male-dominated professions were in the 62nd percentile on the boldness scales, while the same age group in female-dominated professions ranked only in the 42nd percentile.

Both Zenger and Folkman think the reason behind their findings is that being a younger woman in a male-dominated profession “requires a fairly bold personality — a willingness to challenge the status quo, push harder for results, and do something out of the ordinary.”

Ranking of best Asian countries for women to live and work

best women work Singapore, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia

A study by  BAV Consulting, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the U.S. News & World Report, provides a ranking of the best places for women to live and work.

To score countries, they looked at the following attributes:

  1. Cares about human rights
  2. Gender equality
  3. Income equality
  4. Safety
  5. Progressiveness

The Nordic countries fared best in the ranking. Pakistan and Algeria, were ranked as the two worst countries for women to live and work.

Here are the top 20 countries globally for women to live and work:

  1. Denmark
  2. Sweden
  3. Canada
  4. Netherlands
  5. Australia
  6. New Zealand
  7. Germany
  8. United Kingdom
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Austria
  11. France
  12. Ireland
  13. United States
  14. Japan
  15. Spain
  16. Italy
  17. Portugal
  18. Singapore
  19. Czech Republic
  20. China

Rankings of Asian countries, for women to live and work:

  • South Korea – 23
  • Malaysia – 35
  • Thailand – 36
  • Philippines – 41
  • Vietnam – 43
  •  India – 44
  • Indonesia – 50

Women in the workplace: Hard Truths, Challenges & Solutions

career women leadership

In the last decade, the world has witnessed a lot of voices rising on issues like gender equality and feminism, yet the statistics show that women hold only five percent of CEO positions at the 1000 Fortune companies.

According to the data, females occupy 60 percent of junior positions, while the numbers descend in the upper levels of management. Only 20 percent of women are seen in senior positions, while less than 10 percent of women hold C-Suite leadership.

For some interesting perspective on this, have a look at the presentation below, or continue reading for the highlights.

So, what are the challenges that women face in the workplace on a daily basis?

Second-Generation Gender Bias

Organizations propagate gender equality principles widely, but during appraisals, a collaborative woman is viewed as weak, while an assertive one is seen aggressive.

This type of discrimination is very subtle and often is ignored by both genders.

Gender Stereotyping

Through the years, the image associated with the word “leadership” has evolved, yet the qualities of strong and powerful leaders are associated with men.

The common traits associated with leadership/power/influence include being well-built, assertive and dominant, while women are often perceived as affectionate and compassionate.

Career Vs. Family

The deep-rooted traditions of society tend to force women to choose between career and family.

These traditions have led to a lot of potential female leaders taking back their steps in the workplace and opting for flexible and convenient jobs rather than demanding leadership roles.

With societal pressures aside, there is great power in the leadership of women. It is evident that companies with women serving on the board make more comprehensive decisions and have higher returns on investments.

Women also tend to have a higher range of emotional intelligence, which is an important trait of a successful leader.

How can organizations and women themselves overcome the aforementioned challenges?

  1. Reassess and define what leadership skills the organization needs and values.
  2. Draw on a person’s individual strengths rather than stereotypical attributes.
  3. For women: Make a move within your organization or dust off your CV when you don’t see yourself moving forward. Define your career goals and take progressive actions.
  4. Create leaders who recognize diverse abilities and experiences to create a more productive workplace.

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” ~ Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In.

For in-depth research and interesting content on the topic of women in the workplace, take a look at the INSEAD Knowledge website. There’s some great stuff there.