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Panel discussion: Achieving gender parity in the workforce

Zafirah Salim | Nov. 6, 2015
At the recently-concluded EY's Women Fast Forward Breakfast Forum 2015, EY led a panel discussion with business leaders to discuss the current gender landscape in the corporate world, recommending ways on accelerating women’s progress in the workforce.


Forum panelists (from left): Christopher Wong, Assurance Partner, EY; Lauraine Riley, Vice President of Finance, IBM Asia Pacific; Philip Lee, Chief Country Officer, Deutsche Bank AG, Singapore Branch; Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary, Public Service Division, Prime Minister's Office; and moderator, Jonathan Wright, Advisory Partner, EY

The World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap Report 2014 estimates that it will take until 2095 to achieve global parity in the workplace. This means that it will take another 80 years until companies and governments will be equally led by men and women.

At the recently-concluded EY's Women Fast Forward Breakfast Forum 2015, which took place on October 30 at Regent Hotel Singapore, EY led a panel discussion with business leaders to discuss the current gender landscape in the corporate world, recommending ways on accelerating women's progress in the workforce.

Philip Lee, Chief Country Officer of Deutsche Bank AG, Singapore Branch, kick-started the discussion, emphasizing that this issue is more of a "leadership issue" rather than a pure gender issue.

According to Lee, Deutsche's philosophy is to create a "balanced workforce". Out of its 2,000 employees in Singapore, 40 percent of them are women. He admitted that this is not the desired golden ratio (50:50), but the bank is most definitely striving to strike the right balance.

Some of the initiatives that Deutsche has rolled out to support this work-life balance agenda are enabling flexible working hours, and enhancing its maternity leave policy.

"Like any good company in Singapore, we have 17 weeks of maternity leave. In countries like Europe and Scandinavia however, it's close to a year - so 17 weeks is really short [when compared to our global counterparts]," said Lee.

"Two months ago, I changed the HR policy to give the women an additional six months to slowly phase in after they return from their maternity leave. This means that they can work at levels of 25% or 50% for the next six months, and so far we have received positive feedback from our female employees," he added.

As for paternity leave, Lee has also increased it to two weeks instead of the standard one week. This is greatly supported by both male and female employees, according to him; and he believes that a happy and satisfied worker will be more productive, which in turn benefits the company.

Low representation of women in the management level

Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary, Public Service Division, Prime Minister's Office, agreed with Lee's earlier statement about this not being a gender issue. The real issue here is about leadership and how woman can rise up [in the corporate world], she said.

 

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