Keeping women in the workforce

Keeping women in the workforce

KEVIN ASKED: Women, as we know, are under-represented in the workplace, particularly at the top rungs. The biggest factor for that is related to family commitments. With the Government encouraging couples to have more babies, could this situation deteriorate further?

Here's what I think. Women have children because the baby's chortles are music to their ears and guiding them as they grow is a soothing balm for the heart. In short, it's because of the strong maternal tug.

Of course, not everyone feels that way about children - to each her own. For that reason, incentivising couples to have babies through policy measures may not quite have the desired impact.

If you have already decided not to have children, incentives are unlikely to result in a change of heart. But if you do want children, you're not going to scrap your family planning simply because there's a vacuum in the pro-baby policy space.

In other words, the policies announced recently by the Government, in my view, only go as far as helping those who already want to have children.

So what does this mean for the workforce? Many women choose family over career ambitions and this has been pointed out by numerous studies as a key factor for their under-representation at senior levels in business.

For many women who drop out of corporate life in their 30s and 40s, the decision is driven by the responsibility of family commitment, which still tends to fall to the mother, says Mr George McFerran, eFinancialCareers' managing director, Asia Pacific.

More must be done to address the squeeze in talent. "This is not just about giving more leave allowance," he adds. Flexible working arrangements for mothers and fathers need to become an integral part of the working day, he says.

Indeed, the changing mindset of employers will further pave the way to seeing more women in top leadership roles, says Mr Josh Goh of The GMP Group.

Mr Robert Wilkes, managing director of Towers Watson Singapore, says the Government's measures are well thought out, and are aimed at enabling more women to continue to be a productive part of the workforce.

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