McKinsey’s latest publication “The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in Asia Pacific” reports that women’s equality can add as much as $4.5 trillion to the GDP to the Asia Pacific region. While all countries can expect at least a 5% increase in GDP, the potential for growth for India, China and Australia exceeds 10%.
For Singapore, this is an injection of S$26 Billion to the GDP. However, while the nation leads Asia Pacific for physical security and autonomy for women, there is room for growth for representation in the legal and political sphere as well as increased equality within the workplace.
In order to reach its potential, it is crucial for Singapore to cross several obstacles. McKinsey recognises this gap as a consequence of the lack of women participating in the labour force, as well as the increasing gender gap in participation for women in their 30s. While 84% of married men continue to work , only 64% of married women do the same.
McKinsey also notes a glaring discrepancy in economic opportunity for women in Singapore, as they continue to be concentrated in lower growth sectors and lower paying roles – with 3.2 times more women in clerical support than men. Despite the increasing role of the digital economy, women are 0.6 times less in tech. The talent pipeline also narrows for women, with a drop of over 50% of representation from entry level to senior management. The limitation in leadership of women extends, with women representing only 5% of CEOs in Singapore.
McKinsey highlights the central pillars that Singapore should focus on for a more inclusive future. On a cultural level, the nation needs to rework public attitudes on the role of women in work and society. At the workplace, policies need to centre on economic incentives for retaining women as well as increasing access and equal provisions for families. Women must also be prepared for the jobs of the future, developing skills to adapt to a rapidly evolving work environment in the face of disruption. Lastly, the representation of women in STEM must also be addressed.
A collaborative approach becomes inevitable, according to the report. Businesses and governments must use their resources and influence to co-create policies that are inclusive, equal and beneficial for all at both the public and private levels.
To unleash the economic potential, governments can impose equal remuneration laws. By emulating the successful models of countries such as Sweden that provide gender balanced and parent friendly parental leave options, Singapore can help control the further widening of the gender gap in labour force participation. McKinsey also encourages governments to undertake initiatives to encourage digital access for women and use campaigns to shift attitudes about the role of women in society and work.
Businesses too, must play their part. Internally, they can analyse and resolve the gender pay gap as well as provide more flexible work options and return to work programmes. They can also offer incentives for women to participate in SkillsFuture as well as increase education, employment and retaining of women in STEM through initiatives and even quotas.
Ahead of these findings, McKinsey also announced its support for Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society with its first ever Women’s Forum Singapore. Convening 12-13 September 2013, Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society is dedicated to highlighting women’s voices and perspectives. The Meeting aims to accelerate gender equality by bringing together leaders to resolve pressing global issues while adding to the call for women’s leadership.
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