Women on Board

Women On Board
Photo credit : Bloomberg.com

Another research that reports the obvious – corporate boards are filled with old boys’ networks.

At the gender diversity talk last week, many views were discussed about the dismal representation of women in Singapore boards. Though there are many well-educated professional women here, most of these women have to balance between career and family, spend lesser time networking and generally less aggressive than their male counterparts.

One of the most candid suggestions was given by a former politician. Her view was that culturally women here don’t go around flaunting their abilities and availability. Actively offering ourselves is tantamount to economic promiscuity. Women tends to go about doing their work well in the office and at home rather than taking on additional roles such as director duties.

But we’ve made progress since women entered the workforce.

When I applied to be the first female executive in a male-dominated sales team, the local manager rejected me on the grounds that I’m a woman and won’t be able to fit in. How would he know I can’t fit in? It’s clearly discriminatory. Fortunately the section head, a British bloke took me in. Today, the company has more women than men in their sales force.

Things are getting better for women.

It’s a mindset change. Men has to be more open in accepting women for decision-making and strategic roles, and women has to be more pro-active in seeking opportunities.

But we’re not there yet.

An experienced board director mentioned to me that even if they open the board to women, it will not be more than one. One is good, he said. She gets enough attention from the lads, adds a feminine touch and value to the group, and the company can show that it is being politically correct. More than one woman, the board is asking for cat fights, the old chap concluded.

That’s blatantly sexist! I kept my cool. Is that what men thinks of women in senior positions?

I suppose when a woman works so hard to reach a certain status, she is likely to be highly opinionated, extremely vocal and used to calling the shots.

As the Chinese proverb goes ” 一山不容二虎 ”  literally translated to ” One mountain cannot tolerate two tigers “. That implies that two equally powerful characters will not be able to co-exist together without one killing the other.

Is that what men are fearful of? Is that why men keeps themselves within their own testosterone circles? That shows a clear lack of confidence and reluctance to accept that women has reached and in some cases surpassed the level of professionalism in many industries.

Man, you don’t get it!

Women aren’t on many boards, not because we can’t but because we don’t want to. Careers and families come first. Those are our priorities as working mothers.

But now that our home responsibilities are fulfilled, we are ready to embark on the next level of professional development – getting on board Boards.

Yes, we’ve come a long long way from the time Helen Reddy sang “I am Woman”, the official song for the  International Women’s Year in 1975.



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