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Unlocking the Careers of Women at Work

Unlocking the Careers of Women at Work

Building a diverse workforce has long been one of the key priorities for organisations. Senior executives routinely recognise that having a diverse workforce is good for business because the different perspectives, experiences, and background that a heterogeneous workforce bring to the table is the best line of organisational defence against group think. More often than not, diversity results in better decisions making processes and business strategies.

Among the different types of diversity needed at workplaces, gender diversity has always been of the top concern for organisations . This is evident by the amount of attention that researchers and popular press are paying to the subject matter. A casual search on the Internet turns up hundreds of articles on the topic, advocacy groups regularly lobbied for levelled playing field for both gender, and companies habitually declare their commitment to provide equal opportunities for both males and females.

Despite the best efforts made by stakeholders to support the career advancement of women, progress made by women at work continue to be painfully slow. Women remain under-represented at all levels in organisations, and especially in senior management .

To better understand issues surrounding the development of female executive at all corporate hierarchy, the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School embarked on a study to examine the possible underlying reasons that limit the career advancement of women.

Based on an extensive literature review and in-depth qualitative interviews with 30 senior female executives from MNCs that are operating in Singapore, we identified four underlying reasons why women continue to experience slow careers advancement.

Belittled Me

  • Female executives experience adverse performance appraisals and unequal promotion opportunities due to unconscious biases that exist in workplaces.

Isolated Me

  • Female executives lack effective internal and external networks. That limit their corporate visibility and reduce their access to opportunities, mentors, and career sponsors.

Paradoxical Me

  • Female executives experience a catch-22 leadership situation where there are conflicting beliefs among stakeholders about the ‘right leadership style’ that they should adopt at work.

Burdened Me

  • Female executives “leak out” of the corporate pipeline due to the need to balance career aspirations with family responsibilities.
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