Over the years, women have made great strides in workplaces as the female labour force participation in Singapore has increased by 4.6% over the last 9 years. (Hirschmann, 2020) However, gender inequality in workplaces is still prevalent. Women continue to face many potential hardships which manifest in ways which are often overlooked; stagnant career growth, wage gaps, sexist condescension, repressed opinions and social stigma. By advancing women equality, Singapore can boost $20 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. (Woetzel et al., 2018) Given the potential to boost our economy, this paper seeks to investigate gender inequality amongst female professionals and the causes surrounding it. It is hypothesized that gender inequality in the workplace has improved significantly but is far from achieving full equality.
Gender inequality in the workplace is defined as a sex discrimination which results in an individual treated less favourably because of their gender. (Excite Education). Previous studies have been conducted to explain the causation of gender roles; the root cause of gender inequality (Lau, A.C., 2019). However, little has been done in Singapore to investigate the discrimination women face in the workplace. Most research was done on countries such as America where the populace is open to speaking out on such controversial social issues as compared to Singapore, a conservative country. Additionally, the Singapore government highly regulates data from being published, which is a high barrier for researchers. Therefore in our research, we attempt to interview females who are currently working to gather insights and identify the inequality they face working in Singapore.
In this study, we collected primary and secondary data from interviews and previous studies respectively. A total of 15 women aged 21 to 30 working in male dominated industries in Singapore such as the military, engineering and technology were interviewed through convenience sampling. We referenced McKinsey Global Institute’s (MGI) gender equality report (Woetzel et al., 2018), which used indicators from several global charters such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index which are well established indices, proven to be a reliable and accurate measure of gender equality (Woetzel et al., 2018). The interview consisted of 11 questions that were subdivided into various categories. During the interview, brief notes of main points were written down and it was recorded to ensure precision and accuracy. We gathered both quantitative and qualitative data through the interviews. The quantitative data will be presented in percentage while the qualitative data will be categorised into themes.
Findings and Results
The following results are related to the investigation of progress for gender inequality. The main areas investigated include wages, career opportunities, work life balance and common workplace stigmas.
Women earned less than men across all occupations apart from low paying clerical work in 2016 and were also paid 43% lower than their male counterparts.(Hingorani,2018). Singapore ranks at 0.78 on the perceived wage gap for similar work index. (Figure 1) Although highest within Asia Pacific, Singapore lags behind the global best at 0.86 (Woetzel et al., 2018). From our interview, 62% felt that women and men are equally paid, regardless of their job scope. 23% felt women are paid lower than men and the remaining 15% felt otherwise. (Figure 2)
As seen from Figure 1, Singapore is at 0.76 in the labour force participation rate, falling sharply behind global best at 1.00 (Woetzel et al., 2018). However, there has been a steady increase in the labour force participation rate of women in Singapore; a 4.6% rise since 2010 (Hirschmann, 2020).
With reference to figure 4, a 2016 survey found that 66% of women in Singapore report experiencing unfair treatment in terms of career progression opportunities, remuneration, performance appraisal, and recruitment because of their gender. (Hermes,2018)
From our interview, 80% felt that growth in their current profession is not limited, whilst the remaining 20% experienced difficulties compared to their male counterparts; a 46% drop compared to 2016. (Figure 5) The share of women in senior management and board positions merely make up 25% and 8% respectively. (Woetzel et al., 2018). With reference to Figure 1, Singapore is at 0.52 for leadership position index, behind the global best at 1.13 (Woetzel et al., 2018).
In 2016, 78% of prime working-age women outside the labour force were not working because of family responsibilities, in comparison to a 9.6% for men. (Hingorani, S,2018). From our interview conducted, the majority of the women rated 6/10 for their work life balance, with a minority rating an 8/10. (Figure 6)
From the interview conducted, many still face common stigmas of women being “physically and mentally weaker” as said by interviewee 4 , “cannot take the heat or not willing to be involved in hard labour or do the dirty work” as mentioned by interviewee 2. Interviewee 1 experienced a strong “boys club” culture in her workplace that led her to feel “left out” and that her boss tends to “look out for his boys more”.
The aim of this study was to investigate how gender inequality amongst female professionals has progressed. Results obtained showed that there has been marked improvements in career opportunities and work life balance for women. In Singapore today, more opportunities in career progression are given to those who are willing to learn. With strong programmes and infrastructure set up by government agencies, it has significantly propelled employers and employees to pursue deeper career progression. An “enhanced work-life grant” rolled out by the government has supported women especially as they improve their work-life balance (Kay,2020) and companies have seen greater productivity and retention of talent. Yet little has been done to improve the wage gaps between men and women, as well as the betterment of workplace stigmas. Women are still paid significantly lower than their male counterparts. From our data collected, in comparison to the 15% of women paid higher than men, 23% are paid much lower. Some may argue that womens’ inflexibility at work may be the biggest contributor (Coren,2019). However, with the persistent gender stereotypes and social construct, it leads to unfair treatment towards women. Societal norms of women having more responsibility at home requires them to sacrifice flexible working hours. This obstructs them from pursuing a higher paying job which typically requires a longer working hour, resulting in stagnant wages (Coren, 2019). In a traditional society like Singapore, it can be a challenge to change the views from patriarchal to one which champions familial and gender equality (Lim, 2017). Large corporations must also rid of discrimination and bianess towards men in leadership by creating an equitable workplace culture and enforcing unbiased policies. Policymakers must also work towards a clear direction of achieving equality, so that women can be assured greater equality in workplaces.
The research on some parts lacks an analysis of how intersectionality would affect our findings. It is essential to take into consideration of social categorisations such as race, class, and preferred sexuality for understanding wokrplace discrimination. Hence, an extension to this research would be attempting to understand how gender inequality affects female professionals of different ethnicities in their workplaces to better acknowledge and ground the differences amongst us. It is given that the respondents were of middle-class status, and it would be important to understand the gender inequality in terms of different classes which can be further explored in future papers.
From the study, we can conclude that gender inequality has improved but not yet eradicated. By viewing from a woman’s perspective, we are able to add onto existing studies on gender inequality towards women in workplaces.In doing so, I wish to highlight the importance of everyone playing their part in combating gender inequality.