Gender gap felt more strongly in Singapore than in neighbouring countries

Author: PM editorial | Date: 16 Mar 2016

Helping someone of the same gender can be perceived as sexism, says report by The Economist

Gender imbalance in the workplace is felt more strongly in Singapore than Indonesia or Malaysia, according to a new report by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit.
 
Respondents to the report, Mind the Gaps, estimated that 26 per cent of senior executives in Singapore are women, compared to 32 per cent in Malaysia and 34 per cent in Indonesia.
 
The report, sponsored by HSBC, aims to: “examine perceptions of the gender diversity gap among working women in southeast Asia, at both senior and mid-levels of management.”
 
While it found a clear gender imbalance at senior executive level among the southeast Asian organisations surveyed, there was a perception that the differences between male and female opportunities weren’t quite so stark. In Singapore, more than one-third of female executives from Singapore (34 per cent) say there is a diversity gap at their company, while 27 per cent feel there is no gap at all.
 
However, there was some disparity in what senior-level women claim they do compared to what mid-level women think is being done for gender equality. Around 38 per cent of senior women say they push the leaders of their organisation to get women represented on the board, but only 24 per cent of mid-level women believe this is being done. Similarly, 40 per cent of senior women say they have attempted to educate colleagues on gender bias in the workplace but only 25 per cent of mid-level women agree that this is the case.
 
The worry for some women surveyed was that if they are overly helpful to other female colleagues it might be seen as sexism. “Singaporeans are more likely to feel that women who help other women will be branded feminist or sexist,” said the report. “Just 38 per cent of Indonesian respondents feel this way, compared to 42 per cent of Malaysians and 43 per cent of Singaporeans.”
 
The report concluded by suggesting that a lack of awareness around diversity issues could influence the results: “They [southeast Asian women] believe around one-third of senior executives in their businesses are women, they don’t believe they are paid less than their male counterparts, and only one-third of women believe there are large gender diversity gaps.”
 
These findings contrast with the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Gender Gap Report, which placed Singapore at 54 out of 145 countries surveyed on gender equality, while Indonesia and Malaysia are way behind at 92 and 111 respectively.