This past Monday marks International Women’s Day, where globally we have been celebrating women’s achievements in a push for equality. With the theme this year being ‘Choose to Challenge,’ it is an apt reminder to encourage people to come together and celebrate outstanding work by women, especially in a challenging business climate.
While women try to rise above everyday challenges thrown their way, 2020 serves as a lesson to the inequality that we as women can face at home and the workplace. With that, 2021 is the year for taking what we’ve learned, continuing that journey and living the values of this year’s theme – ‘choose to challenge’.
As COVID-19 continues to rattle Singapore’s economy, research reveals that nearly 82 per cent of women surveyed said their lives have been adversely affected, citing negative impacts on mental and physical well-being and work/life balance. Additionally, 60 per cent question whether they want to progress at all when considering what they believe it will take to move up in their organisation.
With the tech industry often categorised as a highly competitive and high-stress environment that is mostly dominated by males, how can women continue to thrive despite the perpetuation of traditional gender roles? The pressures experienced, along with living up to the expectations of a woman in the tech scene, shouldn’t be an impediment or threat to career progression.
Rather, this is a wakeup call for organisations to create an inclusive and safe environment that empowers women to choose to challenge status quo and enable progression, be it in the tech industry or anywhere else.
With this in mind – and as a working mother of two young girls leading the marketing team in a global tech company, here are three key learnings I’ve taken over the last year for how we can support women in the workplace and contribute to a more equal COVID-19 world:
Embracing flexible work to close the gender gap
It’s no surprise that the pandemic has created paradigm shifts in workplace flexibility and working from home arrangements. While many women have enjoyed the eased time pressures without having to rush for work and doing school drop-off, research indicates that women are more likely to continue carrying out domestic responsibilities while working flexibly.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to put the time to prioritise their career. While it’s tempting to think that flexible work options will be an equaliser for women, women should not feel like they need to choose between work and family responsibilities.
This is where leading by example can help. Working for a business such as DocuSign that embraces equality and has actively created benefits like the ‘DocuSign Cares’ package, which can pay for childcare during mandated ‘work from home’, gives me the confidence that other businesses can support women in navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 world in a similar way.
Drawing boundaries in an era of hyper-connectivity
As a woman in tech, it’s inspiring to see how digital platforms have transformed our working models. It’s almost a year since the implementation of the Circuit Breaker in Singapore, we continue to find ourselves being constantly connected to work, staying online almost 24//7.
With technology permeating all boundaries of personal and professional life, women must step up through setting boundaries beginning with the gadgets and tools they use.
According to a recent study, 65 per cent of Singapore employers consider flexible working to be a key factor of work-life balance. Hence by drawing the necessary boundaries between work and personal spheres, engagement and disconnectivity, women can better manage their time, remain productive and perform at work all while maintaining work-life harmony to rise above glass ceilings.
Unlocking woman leadership opportunities
Leadership is a powerful tool that could make or break your organisation. By supporting women to take leadership positions, we can challenge gender stereotypes and drive equality in the workplace. COVID-19 has shed the spotlight on the need for upskilling, and it’s up to businesses to ensure that female workers are actively encouraged to participate in such programs.
For example, in APAC, half of our teams at DocuSign are managed by female leaders, who are constantly encouraged to build on their current skill set. With a diverse workforce, any business will be better positioned to build well-rounded ideas and a richer culture.
According to research from McKinsey Global Institute, increasing gender equality and championing women empowerment in Singapore’s workforce could add S$26 billion to the country’s GDP by 2025.
Now is the time to think about how we continue to deliver messages of positivity to women, as it’s clear that COVID-19 has prompted us all to think about how we can champion change in the workplace.
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