We proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2020. International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Whilst we all know that gender parity within the workplace has improved over the past decades, we all also know that there is still a long way to go.
We interviewed Sandi Sadek, based in Singapore and Managing Director, Human Resources at a global bank .
Have you experienced gender stereotypes/gender bias in a professional context? If so, how have you been able to challenge this?
I say this reluctantly, however I have experienced gender bias in the work context. Gender stereotypes are ingrained at an early age, where boys are encouraged for their assertive behaviour while girls are often labelled as ‘aggressive’ or ‘overly assertive’. These biases are brought to the workforce and often corporate culture reinforces these stereotypes, which can hold back women and reward men for the same behaviour. You simply need to look at the ratio of men and women on Boards or in senior management positions to realise this. Women typically make up less than 20% of this cohort. We have a long way to go before we eliminate gender stereotypes or bias in the workplace.
In terms of what I’ve personally done to challenge this, the first step is to bring awareness to the topic. We need to train people and organisations to recognise and acknowledge ingrained social and cultural conditioning that can affect decision making and attitudes towards others. I’m also not afraid to call it out when I see it – I think this is something we could all do more of!
How do you think parental leave should be approached in 2020?
Parental leave is a huge opportunity for companies. Put simply, parents need leave and as we look around the globe, many improvements are needed. A glaring example is the United States, where companies still do not offer paid maternity leave. Closer to home, I think we’ve come a long way in most parts of Asia. I remember when I first started working in Singapore, maternity leave was 2 months!
As we look forward, I would like to see more flexibility and options for parents. Shared parental leave is something we need to continue to work towards. Policies are helpful, however we also need to change the mindset of companies and create equitable access for men to take parental leave. For example, in Singapore, in 2018, two thirds of eligible fathers did not take Paternity Leave.
As a working mother, I would say the greatest gift an employer can give, is flexibility and support. I’m a firm believer that women can have it all – however not all at the same time. We need to support women through the various stages of their careers, be it through leave or other affirmative programs and policies, such that women can continue to contribute meaningfully both at work and at home.
Please note that all commentary and opinions provided are those of the individual, and not the organisation/company they are employed by.