On 5th May 2023, we organised an Engagement Forum and Workshop with the launch of Singapore’s first-ever findings of gendered leadership within the Reykjavik Index for Leadership 2022 – 2023, in collaboration with global policy advisory firm Kantar Public.
Held at NTUC Centre, with gratitude to Ms Yeo Wan Ling, Director of NTUC U SME and Women & Family Unit, the agenda was focused on finding out the current state of perceptions on women’s leadership in Singapore and deliberating on these findings through an interactive discussion with close to 80 women and men who were exclusively invited by SCWO and Kantar Public.
Launched in 2018 by Kantar Public and Women Political Leaders, the Reykjavik Index for Leadership measure how society views men and women in terms of their suitability for leadership. A score of 100 indicates complete agreement that men and women are equally suited for leadership across the economy, and any score of less than 100 is an indication of prejudice in society.
The Reykjavik Index for Leadership 2022-23 report presents findings drawn from the attitudes of over 14,000 respondents between the ages of 18-65 across 14 countries via an online survey. The Index has been constructed based on research exploring the question: “For each of the following sectors or industries, do you think men or women are better suited to leadership positions?” This question allows responses of ‘men’, ‘women’ or ‘both equally’ for 23 different sectors. Aligned with the goal, a response of ‘both equally’ scores a point while a response of ‘men’ or of ‘women’ scores zero points. This is the first time Singapore is in the Index and scored 66.
A Collaboration for Future Plans Towards Achieving Gender Parity in Leadership Positions
The actions detailed in the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development released in 2022 – supplemented with contributions from SCWO on facilitating greater women’s representation in leadership roles – have helped to address challenges, such as achieving board diversity.
It is notable that the percentage of women on boards of Top 100 SGX companies have increased almost three-fold since 2014 to 21.5% in 2022, indicating an increase in awareness and addressing gender parity in leadership positions.
However, SCWO highlights that more efforts are required to generate greater awareness and to drive mindset change among both genders and the younger generation.
Marking the start of an illustrious collaboration between SCWO and Kantar Public, the Engagement Forum and Workshop discussed Singapore’s inaugural findings within the Index, with SCWO pioneering insights and charting future plans to increase women representation in leadership positions.
Koh Yan Ping, CEO of SCWO, said, “SCWO has been consistently promoting progress on women leadership in order to overcome entrenched gender stereotypes and to remove unconscious bias. To achieve that, figures and statistics are essential tools in shaping public policy and social progress, which is why we are very excited.”
“We look forward to collaborating with strategic partners like Kantar Public to strengthen local gendered research, using these findings as basis for public engagements and building capabilities of member women organisations of SCWO – fulfilling our vision and mission of Equal Space, Equal Voice, and Equal Worth.”
Sandra Lim, Managing Director, Kantar Public, said,” We are extremely honoured to be named as SCWO’s knowledge partner in creating a more gender-equal Singapore. Our research aims at better understanding the underlying prejudice that continues to surround female leadership, contributing insights required for decision making in our society in hopes for a better, fairer society where both women and men have an equal opportunity to lead.”
Prevalent Prejudices Against Women in Leadership Roles Remain in Singapore: The Reykjavik Index for Leadership by Kantar Public
There has been increasing awareness and attention on the need for a more equitable representation of women in leadership positions in recent years. The White Paper also calls for persistent efforts on mindset change and addressing gender stereotypes. The Index confirms this, with only 30% of respondents reported being very comfortable with a woman being Head of Government, Minister, or CEO of a major or SME company.
Women here are also prejudiced against women leaders, but men remained more so, with a nine-point difference between women (71) and men (62) on the Index. It is worth noting however, that when asked the question, “At work – do you think gender equality has been achieved in Singapore?”, the majority of respondents for Singapore (70% and 60% of male and female respondents respectively) answered positively.
Meanwhile, preconceived notions also continue to exist within specific industries. Women are perceived to be better leaders in traditionally female-dominated spaces such as Childcare, Fashion, and Beauty, as compared to High-tech, Artificial Intelligence, Gaming, Engineering, Defence and Police, and more. These findings of occupational segregation further suggests that women are also prejudiced against themselves, largely deviating from careers that are based on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Where Does Singapore Stand Globally?
In comparison to the average score of 72 among G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States), Singapore scored lower at 66 on the Index. In the region, Singapore fared better than Indonesia but is slightly behind Thailand.
Respondents here also rated 7.3 out of 10 when asked how important gender equality is for their society (from a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being most important) – this is lower than all countries on the Index, less Japan.
However, the trajectory for the future of gender parity in Singapore is increasingly positive. While most countries saw younger populations having a more serious stereotype of women being in leadership, respondents here between 18 to 34 held a more progressive view over gender equality in leadership.
Sandra added, “What we see in the data is that we cannot remain complacent in our endeavour to bridge the gender gap and achieve equity. I am heartened to the progressive views of our younger generations here in Singapore. However, our data shows us that in some areas, we have seen regression on the perception of women and men being equally suitable for leadership. I am glad that we are partnering with SCWO on such a forum to invite different stakeholders and members of the public to cocreate interventions to build greater gender equity in Singapore.”
Paving the Way for Gender Parity in Singapore
Actively leading the way in Singapore’s women’s development, SCWO, in particular through its Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF), has been celebrating the outstanding achievements of women who have contributed to the shaping of Singapore. In addition to the SWHF is SCWO’s published book, Awesome Women of Singapore, and Project Awesome, aimed at bringing inspiring stories of Awesome SWHF inductees to schoolchildren – both boys and girls.
Beyond shaping perceptions to strengthen women’s development in Singapore, tangible, actionable steps have also been set in place by SCWO for further progress. At the workplace, SCWO’s BoardAgender’s Mentoring Programme for Aspiring Women Directors connects female mentees with mentors, male or female, in senior leadership positions and industry leaders. The latter are mentors who advise and support the younger women as they build their careers, directly influencing greater female representation in boardrooms.
Yan Ping added, “Nurturing diversity, equity, and inclusion is a whole-of-society effort and there is so much more we can do to support, protect, and uplift our women as a nation. It is crucial that we shift our mindsets to rebuild the flawed foundation of gendered expectations passed down from generations before us. Only with this first step of acknowledgement among both genders and the younger generation, can we then build a more progressive nation that truly celebrates gender diversity and inclusiveness.”