Why are women so underrepresented in the C-suite?

A new report raises concerns over diversity in Singaporean businesses

Why are women so underrepresented in the C-suite?

The share of women in C-suite roles across Singapore-based financial institutions is projected to dip in 2030, according to a new report from Deloitte, which could have an effect on the diversity of workplaces.

Deloitte's Advancing more women leaders in financial services: A Singapore perspective revealed that the share of women in C-suite positions across Singapore's financial institutions is at 20.8% - and this could decline to 15.3% by 2030.

This drop follows a 23-year progress made in Singapore for women in C-suite roles, where the two per cent share back in 1998 grew to 20.8% by 2021.

The report raised its concern about the projected decline's effect on workplaces, as it revealed that having fewer women in the C-suite have ripple effect throughout an organisation's diversity in the board.

On the other hand, the report said having sufficient women in the C-suite developed a "multiplier effect" across the organisation, meaning if a woman was added to the C-suite, two more women would be added to the senior leadership ranks.

Seah Gek Choo, SheXO Programme Leader, Deloitte Southeast Asia, said this multiplier effect shows the importance of diversity at the highest levels of the organisation.

"Equally, this also implies that opportunities to ascend, particularly for women in senior leadership roles, are critical for talent retention and the avoidance of a reverse multiplier – that is, the proportional percentage of women that will leave next generation roles, as a result of each woman leaving a senior leadership role," she said in a statement.

According to the analysis, the share of women in senior leadership, or those not in C-titled executive roles, is only at 24.5%, while 44.59% for next generation roles, or managers below senior leadership.

The share of women in leadership roles is expected to remain constant at 24.5% by 2030, said the report, while women in next generation roles will grow to 50.4% by 2030.

Read more: Deloitte SEA marks 'largest ever promotion' of partners

What can employers do?

Thio Tse Gan, Financial Services Industry Leader, Deloitte Southeast Asia, said "evolving mindsets" and new advancement opportunities for women can help increase the overall number of women in Singapore's financial services sector in the next decade.

Singapore's White Paper on Singapore’s Women’s Development, which protect women against unfair hiring, promotion, and retrenchment practices can also make a difference.

According to the report, strategies and initiatives also can be implemented by institutions to push for women representation in leadership positions.

"Historically, a lack of flexible working arrangements has been an impediment for women seeking to progress in the workplace, and for financial institutions seeking to retain them," said Thio. "But this is quickly changing: as one of the leading FinTech powerhouses globally, Singapore's financial services industry has rapidly embraced flexible working hours; technology-enabled remote work; mentoring, allyship, and sponsorship programs; and innovative cultures – all of which have been shown to improve outcomes for women."

 

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Why are women so underrepresented in the C-suite?