Empowering Women in the Workplace

This whitepaper by Robert Walters explores the topic of gender diversity and examine its effects on developing future female leaders of tomorrow.

By Robert Walters


Is gender diversity the metaphoric elephant in the workplace today?


Just as a myriad of cultures make up the fabric of Asia Pacific, conversations and sentiments on gender diversity vary. With the debate ever non-conclusive, the purpose of this whitepaper is to draw results and information from past research, sentiments from our client and candidate database across 10 markets in Asia Pacific, and provide recommendations on empowerment in the workplace.


This whitepaper explores:

  • Career priorities of working professionals
  • How female leaders are regarded in the workplace
  • The need for equal representation of female leaders within an organisation
  • What companies can do to empower women in their careers


Key Learning #1: Identify the motivational factors that drive employees early in the recruitment process


Understanding what candidates want out of their careers during job interviews will allow hiring managers to better assess the resources and training required to help empower them within the organisation. This leads to a lower attrition rate and better employee satisfaction.


Key Learning #2: Harness the strengths of diverse teams


Gender bias is still prevalent in many workplaces today. Women who are more vocal and assertive may be seen as overbearing or ‘behaving like men’, while their nurturing, gentler counterparts are perceived as weak. Managers who empower their employees by focussing on their strengths will achieve greater results and help develop high-potential workers into leaders.


Key Learning #3: Consider flexible working options for both parents


A cohesive strategy for supporting women during maternity leave and providing a structure for their return is vital in combating any loss of productivity or employee attrition. More importantly, companies can extend both adequate leave and flexible working options to working fathers to encourage them to share the pressures of keeping up with family commitments.


Key Learning 4: Women want to be mentored for success


Women believe in the value of mentoring programmes or sponsorship at senior management levels to aid them in their career development.


Mentorships have been reported to be most helpful in three areas: career planning, coaching and guidance; protection and career risk management; and increasing aspiration levels and providing a role model – according to a 2012 paper by Kelley School of Business from Indiana University5.


How to find the right mentor?


Establish your objectives

Before searching for a mentor, establish the reasons why you are looking for one. Are you looking for advice on how to become a leader in the workplace, or are you hoping to find an experienced and successful individual to bounce ideas off? Are you seeking networking opportunities, or wish to learn more about starting your own business? Do you want regular catch-up sessions or a mentor you can call each time you are faced with a dilemma? Understanding what you want to gain out of mentoring will increase your chances of finding a mentor well-suited to your needs and expectations.


Mentoring is not exclusive to the workplace

While it may be easier to find a mentor within the organisation you work for, a mentor outside of the workplace can provide more objectivity and fresh perspectives. Seek out potential mentors from the people you meet at business networking sessions, social events, voluntary activities, or other associations you are affiliated with. For tech-savvy professionals, LinkedIn is also a good source for identifying potential mentors within your network of business acquaintances. According to Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook in her book ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’, an ideal mentor should be someone you already know and have good chemistry or rapport with. “Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.”


Be straight to the point and open to rejection

Arrange for a meeting with the individual you have identified as a potential mentor. During the meeting, explain why you are looking for a mentor, what you hope to achieve from the relationship, and why you believe he or she is the right mentor for you. Be open to the possibility of rejection from individuals who may not be prepared to take on a mentoring role.


Manage expectations

Once you have found someone who has agreed to be your mentor, ensure both parties understand the level of commitment required and establish some boundaries. Do you want monthly meet-ups at a local watering hole or a slightly formal meal every quarter? Can you text or call the mentor whenever you need to bounce off ideas, or is email preferred? Managing these seemingly minute expectations can help prevent any misunderstandings or misalignment of needs, ensuring a more successful and fulfilling mentoring relationship.



Key Learning #5: Encourage women to showcase leadership by giving them high-visibility initiatives


Cultivate an environment where women are encouraged to lead high-visibility projects. At global colour and specialty chemicals company Archroma, the HR team has created a high impact elected group of employees to review policies and provide recommendations as part of a Benefit Review Group. A young lady was encouraged to be an active part of the group and presented her ideas in front of the whole office. “This is a great example of someone encouraged to showcase her leadership in front of all senior leaders and employees, making everyone see her in a different light,” said Ravi Bhogaraju, Head of Global HR Textiles & Head HR Asia at Archroma.


Key Learning #6: Start gender diversity from the top


Whether it’s the controversial gender quota imposed in management boardrooms or diversity KPIs, leaders at the top of every organisation should take the lead in ensuring the views and needs of all employees are well-represented.



Click here to download the full report from Robert Walters