Today, businesses are more focused than ever on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Increasingly, businesses understand that diversity is not just needed but beneficial for them because it contributes to business growth in invaluable areas. Firstly, diverse companies are well-equipped to respond creatively to complex problems that arise, as staff from diverse backgrounds bring unique perspectives, ideas, and experiences to the table. Beyond that, diverse companies are better able to attract and retain talent. Organisations that embrace diversity in the workplace are seen more favourably by job seekers and employees.. Diversity also benefits companies by providing a robust pipeline of potential leadership representatives. In turn, this creates a virtuous cycle where female leaders who understand the needs of female employees can implement employee-friendly policies to encourage the retention of female talent. 

There are a number of best practices that businesses can implement in order to promote equality and progress for women in the workforce. In this article, we’ll explore the best fair and progresive employment practices in Singapore for empowering women in the workplace. So, whether your company is looking to get ahead of the curve or just interested to get started in this area, read on for tips on how to create a more equitable workplace for all.

1. Ensure Senior Management Buy-in

Due to the senior management’s role as key decision makers and their ability to influence across your organisation, the first best practice to kickstart change is to convince them to support female empowerment in the workplace. Without the buy-in of senior management or the leadership of the company leading the way, it will be difficult to go beyond the surface of xxx…. That is why changes to culture and policies have to begin from the top. When the management becomes aware of the business benefits of female empowerment in the workplace, there are increased odds of them channelling their time and resources to fuel such initiatives and policymaking.

At DBS Bank, CEO Piyush Gupta believes gender equality is crucial for businesses’ sustainable growth, with women comprising 40% of DBS’ senior management. Another fair and progressive employment practice DBS employs is on the hiring front is to actively create pipelines for female employees in technology, a sector where women are typically under-represented, through targeted hiring initiatives such as hackathons.

Convince your senior leadership to consider the numerous benefits of empowering women in the workplace such as boosts in innovation and decision-making due to multiple perspectives, leading to greater company performance. With the senior management on board, then can your organisation truly implement initiatives and policies to attract & retain female talent.

2. Understand The Needs Of Female Employees

To put in place fair and progressive employment practices for female employees, employers will need to gather insights and data to guide their decision-making. Data analytics should be used by the human resources (HR) team to understand present workforce trends and gaps. Through examining attrition patterns, HR can locate ‘drop-off’ points where female talent leave the organisation to scrutinise and fine-tune HR polices, along with ensuring fair hiring and promotion. This also allows HR to uncover any gender gaps that exist at different levels of the organisation. For instance, in companies where women make up a low percentage of middle management or senior leadership, employers can intentionally identify and groom female leaders through training and mentoring opportunities.

3. Avoid Unconscious Bias

In order to avoid employment and workplace discrimination against women, it is essential that businesses in Singapore must guard against unconscious bias. To ensure fair and transparent recruitment, hiring managers have to check for biases in their communication and take care to avoid  asking questions about caregiving and personal responsibilities that are not related to a female candidate’s job role. Employers should also take a strong stance against conversations and jokes about gender stereotypes to minimise a culture of discrimination in the workplace.

4. Offer Targeted Support For Women

To nurture female talent and build an equitable workplace environment for them, companies should put forward fair and progressive employment practices that support the work-life harmony needs of both male and female employees . This can come in the form of work-life initiatives such as flexible work arrangements (FWAs) for employees that are parents, especially women who typically shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities.  Progressive businesses have their pulse on employee needs through staff surveys, focus group discussions and checking in on workers on a one-on-one basis, allowing them to come up with specific solutions and resources for women. In 2021, the Singapore Business Federation published a report on uplifting women in the workplace, putting forward recommendations such as building up targeted peer support networks for female returnees to help them thrive as they rejoin the workforce. Developing such a nurturing environment could instil greater confidence in women to accept leadership roles. Pilot clustered returnship programmes are another fair employment practice in Singapore organisations could look at. This supports the return of female staff to their workforce through retraining and upskilling or job redesign after time spent looking after their children or extended time off after giving birth. 

5. Take The Pledge To Commit To Fair And Progressive Employment Practices

Women form a key demographic that contributes to business success. Employers who recognise their abilities and find ways to tap on this important talent pool will find it easier to sustain their talent needs, stay competitive and strengthen business growth.  

The Singapore Business Federation Sustainable Employment (SE) initiative calls on the Singapore business community to take purposeful action to improve their SE practices in anticipation of emergent trends and future developments. Singapore Business Federation launched this initiative with a report that highlights key recommendations and potential opportunities for businesses to take on to achieve long-term business success and foster a vibrant economy and inclusive society.

Make the pledge to join others in this journey to implement fair and progressive employment practices in Singapore.