Top 5 Tips: Ensuring women can access the leadership ranks

HR ADVICE: This special instalment of Chief of Staff Asia's Top Five Tips series comes ahead of International Women's Day on March 8.

Catherine Loh, CEO of the Community Foundation of Singapore, says well-designed and creative strategies are necessary to ensure women leadership and inclusion in company affairs. These can also help to break down stereotypes and the social barriers that cause pressure and burnout from juggling both work and family responsibilities.

In this special guest contribution, Loh shares the five main formulae to achieve a high participation rate among women in the workplace.

1. Set women up to thrive in the workplace and life: It is important to ensure that female employees feel driven and can wear many hats in our complex world. At the Community Foundation of Singapore, our HR policies are designed to help women, who often have caregiver roles, to continue working. We offer a flexible three- or four-day working week to give caregivers sufficient time to fulfil their filial duties while contributing their skills to the community. In addition, we provide family care leave so that they can look after their families when required.

2. Share office housework: Organisations must build a culture of acceptance and appreciation. Internally, we conduct audits to check who contributes to service work and to ensure that office housework is distributed evenly between men and women, without bias towards any gender.

3. Create an environment of trust and transparency: For our employees to feel empowered and motivated, we have sought a systematic change in our workforce. This aims to ensure that our leaders can build trust in our team, and be transparent in our work.

In our operational teams, we do not seek to micromanage staff who work from home. We understand and champion flexible work-home arrangements through open communication for a smooth run of company activities without the veil of discrimination hindering prospects. An example includes clear time-bound, measurable outcomes and deliverables to transparently analyse job performance. The supervisors and the employees must have a mutual understanding of what constitutes a successful performance of the job, with mutually predetermined performance criteria.

4. Be intentional: Leaders can afford to be more deliberate in their actions when implementing any form of a new policy that helps with employee advocacy. To ensure that our employees feel comfortable and confident in their skin, we seek to create a safe environment for the exchange of thoughts in all company affairs. Our appreciation of diversity in opinion allows us to work towards mutually beneficial outcomes for all.

5. Lead by example: To enhance learning, we facilitate mentorship among people with different experiences and skillsets. We encourage our employees to continuously learn.

Our leaders can walk the talk by having vested interest and time set aside to develop talent across the organisation. We believe in the importance of organisational upskilling and training to break boundaries of discrimination and bias. Some recent lunch-and-learn training sessions have included topics such as decision-making, giving feedback, building a healthy and cohesive team, addressing mental illness, and providing counselling to employees through a third-party vendor.

About the author
Catherine Loh, CEO of Community Foundation of Singapore
Catherine Loh, CEO, Community Foundation of Singapore

❁ Name: Catherine Loh

❁ Position: CEO, Community Foundation of Singapore

❁Education: A chartered financial analyst, graduated with an Honours degree in Economics and Statistics from the National University of Singapore.

❁Career: More than 20 years in the financial industry with key positions in Nomura, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs. She joined the Community Foundation of Singapore in 2012 and has raised its’ growth through donor funds, creating social impact through effective grant-making, and ensuring the organisation’s fulfilment of creating giving and inspiring strategies for its success.

❁ Most looked-up-to leader: Kathy Matsui, the former vice-chair and strategist at Goldman Sachs Japan. Matsui is widely recognised for coining the term, “womenomics” in 1999, which became a key pillar of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic reforms to boost Japan’s economy by bringing women into the workforce.

❁Go-to quote for International Women's Day: “Women hold up half the sky,” by Mao Zedong because it is a powerful affirmation that women can be equal to men.

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