So maybe you’ve seen the Institute of Policy Studies’ (IPS) latest survey making its way around town. Well, let’s just say, it yields some interesting insights. Published on 16 Jan 2023, the study titled “IPS Survey On Future Of Work Singaporeans Want” found that women in Singapore are not only less likely than men to pursue career self-management skills, but also report lower interest and self-efficacy in creativity skills.
Say, what? Okay IPS, you’ve gotten our attention.
Now, we don’t want to overly alarm you folks—“less likely” here is referring to a difference of a few percent (less than 15%). However, the study found a wedge between women and men over several areas. And that is what has us shifting in our seats.
|Built or are building contacts in areas where they would like to work to a great or moderate extent||43%||51%|
|Seek out career-related training or development outside their organisations to a great or moderate extent||39%||46%|
|Enjoy or somewhat enjoy working in a job that requires them to be creative||63%||71%|
|Agree or strongly agree that they have confidence in their ability to solve problems creatively at work||66%||79%|
Some background—why was this study conducted and how was it done?
We hate to remind you, but we’re steadily heading out of a 3-year pandemic and diving headlong into a recession accompanied by stewing inflation and a brand new GST hike. IPS conducted this survey to understand how prepared Singapore workers are to survive and succeed in a labour landscape which faces increasingly rapid disruptions and major restructuring.
The survey also seeked to understand how Singaporean workers value and prioritise different job aspects. That meant probing respondents on their attitudes towards workplace ethics, diversity and inclusion, environmental and sustainability priorities at work, as well as how meaningful they find their work to be.
Finally, the study took stock of Singapore’s social mobility, or at least the respondent’s perception of it, by measuring how much they feel their lives have improved since childhood.
The survey was conducted in Oct 2022 and involved 1,010 economically active adult Singaporeans (i.e., currently working or actively seeking work) aged 21 to 84.
Back to the main point. What does this mean?
There could be many reasons why women are facing more networking inertia as compared to men. A 2018 study published by SAGE Publishing today in the journal Human Relations found that the reasons preventing women from networking as effectively as their male counterparts doesn’t just stem from exclusion by men. It also originates from self-imposed barriers, including hesitation and gendered modesty.
But it’s not just about being paiseh. The same study revealed that women are extra careful not to “over-benefit” from social ties as that could be regarded as a violation of morals. And all this is further exacerbated by women’s tendency to underestimate and undersell their professional self-worth.
To be fair, the study was based on interviews with 37 high-profile female leaders in German corporations. That’s a relatively small and homogenous sample. But this isn’t a literature review. Point is, ladies, if you were reading the above two paragraphs and felt a twang of discomfort, we’re probably striking a raw nerve.
And now on to the bit about creativity.
66% of women agree or strongly agree that they have confidence in their ability to solve problems creatively at work as compared to 79% of men, according to the IPS study.
We’d argue that creativity is the backbone of problem solving. I mean, if you’re solving a problem using a rule book, it probably wasn’t a real problem to begin with, was it? But why do gender differences surrounding creativity matter?
Studies show that the employers continue to place emphasis on creativity in the workplace. For instance, LinkedIn discovered that creativity is the most sought after soft skill by companies among 50,000 different professional skills, outranking things like adaptability and time management. Various studies by Adobe, PwC, IBM, McKinsey, and others, corroborate this belief. Ultimately, this means that creativity influences who rises, and who doesn’t.
And unfortunately, if people—or women specifically—doubt their very ability to be creative, half the battle is already lost.
Sigh, confidence issues are tough okay.
Yeah, we know. A 2022 study by A.S. Watson Group (yes, the parent company of our neighbourhood pharmacy and beauty joint, Watsons) discovered that almost half of all women in Asia are not confident about themselves at work and in life. Women’s confidence levels are lowest in Hong Kong, closely followed by Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and Mainland China.
Times have changed, and women are increasingly getting well-educated. But yet somehow, they still don’t seem to be getting the right support to further their careers. The same A.S. Watson Group study found that while 70% of the respondents are university graduates and 95% believe they are able to excel in their career, over 30% feel that they do not have enough support from their companies to excel.
So the million-dollar question is, how can we empower women to be more confident in their abilities?
Let’s get personal, ladies—free resources to boost financial literacy and career development
Taking charge of one’s personal finances and career growth are crucial to gaining independence, feeling secure, and becoming more confident.
While personal finance and career resources online are abundant (and largely egalitarian), here are some resources that are specifically aimed at helping women become a better version of themselves.
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If you’re the Chief Financial Officer of your household and have been painstakingly tracking where money is flowing to each month, this might be the platform for you. Lucy is a free mobile banking app in Singapore to help women grow their business, track family expenses, and build personal finance skills.
On Lucy, you can have as many separate accounts as you wish, each with its own virtual bank account number and debit Mastercard. You can use this to allocate money to different budgets pertaining to different members in your family. Each account can also be individually shared view-only with someone else. For instance, your helper can assist to check transactions and balance on your grocery card.
Domestic helpers can create their own Lucy accounts too, and use it to send money 247 directly from the app without needing to queue at money transfer shops. The remittance rate is pretty competitive—and is currently pegged at S$1.50 to Indonesia and the Philippines.
And the cool thing is that the app has no opening fee, monthly fee or minimum balance requirements, meaning you don’t have to worry about hidden costs or recurring charges.
Singapore-based career platform Half The Sky (HTS) was created to connect women to opportunities at companies that value women in their organisations.
HTS screens these companies to find out if they demonstrate commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive workforce. This entails offering flexible working arrangements, paid parental leave, equal pay initiatives, and having robust leadership development, mentorship and coaching programs to help female employees advance their careers.
But it doesn’t stop there. HTS also links women with a community of like-minded women and mentors through its networking arm and helps women learn and grow through various training programmes and a regularly updated blog. Women can find information, tips and strategies to navigate workplaces, such as managing toxic work environments.
Create your profile here.
Founded by multi-hyphenates Tanya Rolfe, Nicole Denholder, and Christine Yu, Sophia is a digital platform aimed at creating a gender inclusive and diverse investing ecosystem. They believe that financial education can close the global wealth gap between men and women and drive more investment dollars into women-led startups.
Currently, they are working towards that goal by providing accessible financial education and investment training for women.
If you’re looking to get serious with investing, particularly in the startup space, Sophia also offers a 23-lesson digital intro course covering angel investing, venture capital, and more.
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Globally recognised investing experts Simran Kaur & Sonya Gupthan have a bone to pick with the world. Currently, men worldwide typically hold 50% more wealth than women. Women also don’t get a chance to catch up if only 15-25% of them are investing.
To make the world of investing less intimidating for women they started Girls That Invest—currently one of the world’s leading investing podcasts for women with over 2.5 million downloads globally.
Latest episodes touch on recent layoffs and what it means for the job market, how to invest in jewellery, and how to financially plan a divorce.
Sim and Sonya post twice a week. On Mondays, they answer tricky, sometimes touchy, questions pertaining to money. On Tuesdays, they dive into trending investment topics, such as safeguarding oneself in a recession.
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Clever Girl Finance is one of the largest personal finance media/education platforms for women in the US. Founder and CEO Bola Sokunbi aims to create a safe space for women to access much-needed financial guidance and support to build financial confidence.
While some of its content is catered specifically for US citizens, you’re bound to find something useful given its large repository of resources. This includes personal finance courses, articles, podcasts, videos, and even a free library of 40+ financial worksheets which you can download to aid your financial planning and growth.
Now, this is barely a start. Shifting the numbers is going to take work. But, baby steps, right? If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, family and colleagues.