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Gender inequality and women's position in the workplace in Singapore - it's been a much discussed and hotly debated topic since women were part of the workforce. With the widespread notion that women have a bigger role to play when it comes to managing the household still deeply ingrained in our societal values, the Women's Leadership Initiative gathered a panel of prominent female leaders and aspiring young professionals in the real estate industry to discuss ways to empower women in the workplace. Hosted by PWC, the idea is for women who have shown that it is possible to enjoy success in both their professional and personal lives to share anecdotes of their experiences on how they managed to overcome the many challenges they faced in achieving that fine balance.
The panel came to a unanimous consensus that building a successful career and managing a healthy family is not a binary choice that working women should have to make. In addition, all speakers also recognise that having familial support is integral to women achieving professional success. Obtaining help in easing possible burdens of family commitments, be it engaging external help to look after young children n the family or having an understanding spouse that does not complain about their long work hours, has allowed them to redirect more focus and energy to the workplace. The advancement of technology has also enabled many working professionals, both male and female, to enjoy a flexible workplace. For example, cross-border meetings no longer warrant constant travel as we now have the option of holding discussions via online platforms like Skype. The development of better information and communications technology has also improved personal connectivity as we can now virtually "meet" our loved ones while on the go. This may have enabled some women who may previously have had reservations about taking on regional opportunities to step up.
Another interesting topic that came up was the difference in work styles between both genders. It was suggested that males tend to speak up and that they are usually more direct compared to their female counterparts. Regina Lim, Head of Capital Markets Research at JLL, shared that some of her female colleagues lost out to the males when it came to bonus negotiation as the males were not afraid to speak up and ask for professional recognition whilst the females tended to shy away from such conversation. Regina also encouraged the attendees to not be afraid to speak up and be more visible in the workplace as sometimes the fears and doubt that inhibit people from speaking up tend to be unfounded.
Lastly, some airtime was also dedicated to discussing the trend of millennials' seeming inability to stay in a job for long. The average tenure at one employment for a millennial employee is 1 to 3 years and Tina Xie, a Business Development Manager at Wilson Associates, who was also one of the younger speakers on the panel, shared her personal experience as a millennial. Tina mentioned the several career changes she had over the years were conscious decisions charting her career in such a way to gain exposure to targeted areas of the industry which she felt would help her become more well-rounded as a real estate professional. The skills and working experience she had gained at each employment also enabled her to be able to do her current job well. The sharing lent a new perspective into understanding the psyche and behaviour of millennials at the workplace.
In conclusion, there has been tremendous progress as we see more women in senior management positions in Singapore but to truly foster an ideal environment that champions the empowerment of females in the workplace will require the support and participation of the male gender.
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