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Uphill task to boost workplace diversity, inclusion

Less than 20% of the women studied are in leadership roles in over half (52.8%) of the companies in Singapore

More needs to be done to get businesses to embrace inclusion and diversity in the workplace, but experts see it as an uphill task.


MORE needs to be done to get businesses to embrace inclusion and diversity in the workplace, but experts see it as an uphill task.

The Workday Diversity & Inclusion Report 2018 - Singapore, released on Wednesday, concludes that while diversity and inclusion are recognised as a booster for morale as well as innovation and creativity in the workplace, women are still under-represented in leadership roles.

Also, not enough is done to support the disabled, and age discrimination remains much alive, especially in large companies, says the report that is based on a study by Workday, a provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources.

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But experts see no easy solutions. A key reason is the lack of women in taking the lead to push for a breakthrough. The study, which covered 100 senior human resources executives, found less than 20 per cent of the women are in leadership roles in over half (52.8 per cent) of the companies in Singapore.

In fact, the majority of the HR executives polled felt that, along with the lack of flexible working hours, the main factor stopping women from climbing the career ladder is that there isn't many female role models for them to follow.

Another reason why there's no easy solution to the diversity and inclusion issue is the big gender perception gap of the problem. While 80 per cent of the men thought their companies were doing enough to support women in the workplace, only 65 per cent of the women shared that view, according to the study.

What needs to be done is pretty clear - and the study has identified the major things. These include putting in place flexible working conditions, and a diversity and inclusion friendly culture - the lack of which is said to be the two biggest barriers to more diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Companies should provide the disabled the facilities they need in the workplace, and improve their inclusive hiring process, according to the study. They should also help older workers to update their skills and retrain them to work with new technology. Companies are already doing these these things but not enough of them are doing it, or they are not doing enough.

According to the study, only 16 per cent of the companies were found to have drawn up diversity and inclusion policies for the disabled, and 35 per cent for ageism. Almost 60 per cent of the HR executives felt their companies could do more to help the disabled.

"Studies show businesses see greater profitability and productivity when their workplaces are more diverse and inclusive," said David Hope, Workday's president for the Asia-Pacific region. "With a quarter of Singapore's residents being ethnic minorities, an ageing workforce and 3.4 per cent of the population identifying as disabled, diversity and inclusion is a critical issue for local businesses."

Over half of the polled HR executives said the more diversity and inclusion, the better it is for morale, innovation and creativity in the workplace. But 50 per cent also indicated they needed tangible proof of it and government prodding to act.

Leadership in the workplace can also make a difference, according to Melissa Murray Bailey, LinkedIn's senior director for the Asia-Pacific region.

"Leaders have the responsibility of fostering an inclusive work environment that embraces individuality and diversity in order to better ensure that employees feel protected, empowered and included," she said.

"This can be a key differentiator in retaining and hiring today's top diverse talent, whose differing backgrounds, educations and experiences can contribute to bringing more innovative solutions."