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Singapore – Women more likely to advance in larger companies

12 February 2014

Female workers in Singapore are more likely to advance their careers at a similar rate to their male colleagues if they work for a large company than if they work for a small one, according to a global survey conducted by recruitment company Robert Half. 

The survey found that 52% of HR managers in Singapore believe women are not getting the same career opportunities as men. When the size of the company is taken into account, the percentage that believe women are held back is 59% in small firms (0-49 employees), compared to 39% of HR managers working in larger firms (500+ employees).

The perception that women are disadvantaged at work is slightly more prominent among female HR managers than male.

Table 1: Do you think that women are not advancing their careers on par with men in the workplace? 

Size Small Medium Large Male Female Total
(Employees) (<49) (50-499) (500+) (HR Managers) (HR Managers)  
Yes 59% 43% 39% 49% 54% 52%
No 41% 57% 61% 51% 46% 48%

When asked why women's careers were not advancing as quickly as men, the most common reason cited was a lack of work-life balance arrangements to allow women to meet their parental duties.  This is particularly true among large firms where 71% of respondents stated that a lack of work-life balance was a barrier to female advancement. 

Societal perceptions of the role of women was still a significant reason why women are not getting ahead, according to 44%, although this is most prominent in mid-sized companies (71%).

In small companies, a lack of ambition is cited as holding back one in four women.  In contrast, there was not a single HR manager working for a large firm who cited lack of ambition as an obstacle.

Size Small Medium Large Total
(Employees) (<49) (50-499) (500+)  
Lack of work life balance/ability to manage parental duties 50% 33% 71% 50%
Societal perceptions of women 22% 71% 33% 44%
Not volunteering for projects / lack of confidence 31% 44% 14% 31%
Lack of promotional opportunities for women 36% 22% 43% 35%
Desire to be liked by their peers 25% 33% 43% 29%
Over-sensitive / over-emotional in the workplace 19% 22% 29% 21%
Lack of ambition 25% 22% 0% 21%

Ms Stella Tang, Director of Robert Half Singapore said a lack of flexible working conditions was still the biggest obstacle women face: "Whether we like it or not, the primary parental role still falls heavily upon women. That's why companies need more flexible work practices in order to keep talented women in the workforce. Women in larger firms seem to have greater opportunity to advance as there are more senior positions for them to aspire to."   

"The most alarming result is that societal perceptions of women are still holding back their careers.  It is hard to believe that people still believe a woman is less capable of doing a job because of her gender," she added, stating that women held back in their careers by sexist prejudice in their workplace could consider finding another job where they are judged by their talent and contribution to the bottom line.


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