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8A THE NATION Monday, April 27, 2009

MANAGEMENT&INNOVATION

It’s alright to be Goliath, but always act like David.” PHIL KNIGHT

G E N D E R FAC TO R

PUTTING WOMEN POWER TO WORK women’s opportunities to advance their careers.

They are still the untapped workforce bosses often sidestep, but need

ATTRACTING AND RETAINING THE FAIRER SEX

JOSH GOH SPECIAL TO THE NATION

W

omen today are described as the main driving force behind decades of growth. With technology and education within reach, women have infiltrated the gender barrier over the decades, and are now able to ascend the corporate ladder and start their own business ventures – previously male-only domains. It is estimated that women account for more than half of the world’s output. In the US alone, women hold 49.1 per cent of the nation’s jobs, while in Asia, the female labour force participation has been growing steadily over the last five years. Nonetheless, more can be done to encourage women, particularly those who have been out of the workforce, to come back to work.

TAPPING INTO THE FEMALE WORKFORCE Diversity in the workplace is key to maintaining the competitive advantage of organisations. Research has shown that a diverse workforce not only promotes creativity, but different voices encourage critical analysis – helpful in improving company practices and services. The positive vibe will help to attract the best talents and develops the company’s brand as an employer of choice. Talent comes in all shapes and sizes and from various backgrounds and lifestyles – mothers and older women included – and such diversity can bring positive change to the organisation. For example, in a traditionally male-dom-

RESEARCH has shown that a diverse workforce not only promotes creativity, but different voices encourage critical analysis. (photo from www.siamcement.com) inated industry, women can not only bring a refreshing change to the workplace but also present alternative perspectives. With the current economic climate and widespread retrenchments, skill shortages are prevalent in some industries while those who have been spared the axe are faced with greatly increased workloads. Women rejoining or entering the workforce, especially trained professionals who have been upgrading themselves, can help to bridge skills gaps. However, while many women are keen to enter or rejoin the workforce, they face unique challenges such as prejudice from employers or how their skills in raising children and managing the household can be translated to the corporate world.

THE GLASS CEILING According to a study by the University of Texas in the United

States, the top three reasons why women exit the workforce are familycentric – personal/family obligations, excessive work hours that prevented them from meeting familial obligations, and personal choice to be a stayhome wife or mother. Recessions will compel many women to enter or rejoin the workforce to supplement the household income. However, many of them will find themselves disadvantaged in the job market, primarily because they have been out of the workplace for some time and their skills are no longer relevant. Furthermore, with employers’ more stringent hiring requirements, these women face fierce competition from the retrenched, fresh graduates and mid-career switchers. Additionally, women’s obligations to family are also seen negatively by some employers who equate family priorities to lack of commitment. Such perceptions would also hamper

To attract and retain valuable women staff, there must be a paradigm shift where mindsets are concerned. Working mothers and older women can still contribute to the organisation, given a supportive work environment to help them balance work and family commitments. During tough economic times, flexibility can bring some of the best talent to the table to fill in the gaps, especially if hiring permanent employees is not an option. Studies have shown that organisations with high levels of flexibility reported strong job satisfaction. For women who are keen on returning to the workforce full-time, part-time or flexi-work can also be implemented as a gradual transition to full-time work. For working mothers, flexible working arrangements can help them manage their familial obligations without compromising their responsibilities at work. Additionally, career development or leadership programmes not only motivate working mothers, but also demonstrate how they are valued by their employers. Such practices will promote loyal staff while building up the employer brand. With a supportive network and family-friendly environment, working women can more easily attend to their personal lives and individual career goals. Being more focused and committed at work would mean they are able to contribute to the organisation to their best abilities. This article is contributed by Mr Josh Goh, Senior Corporate Services Manager, GSI Executive Search, www.gsiconsultants.com.

PROCESS OF CONVERTING CRISIS INTO OPPORTUNITY structive and not personal. CRISIS AND OPPORTUNITY Process: If the broader team are two sides of the same coin. can outline two key alternatives Typically, a crisis is required to for consideration, it helps to break really drive change into an organinto subgroups, with each subisation. That change, if managed group exploring an alternative. properly, can turn into an opporAfter study, each subgroup should tunity. present their recommendations to The financial crisis over the the other subgroup. The other past several months has forced subgroup then needs to critique many companies to reconsider the recommendations. With this key elements of their business input considered, the overall team strategy. When demand is strong, can either present the two alterit hides inefficiencies. But as the natives to the senior executive for level of revenue drops, those inefficiencies begin to show and crises decision or make an overall team arise. But crises offer opportunity. recommendation for senior executive approval. Rather than discuss specific Senior executive role: Very crises, I’m going to review a few importantly, the critical characsenior executive teristics of the (or decisiondecision-making maker) should be process. The absent from the focus is on larger meetings where decisions that the alternatives would impact the are being develbroader organisaoped. If the team tion. senses, or misinTeam selecterprets, a senior tion: The deciexecutive’s prefersion-making ence, the alternaprocess should, to tives will not be some level, be a fully explored by team activity. The the team. And, in senior executive many cases, disand facilitator senting opinions should select the will not be raised. team members EMAIL: TH_CORPCOMM@SEAGATE.COM In the end, the from a broad range of backgrounds. They need senior executive needs to make the decision, either by ratification to be empowered as “sceptical of a recommendation or by makgeneralists”. That means they ing the decision outright from should consider the alternatives alternatives presented. sceptically from a general perSmall decisions would not spective and not limit their input require all the characteristics refto the organisation they repreerenced. But, impactful decisions sent. that will affect the broader organiCulture: The team members sation or company should be must feel and the team must be managed systematically. Crisis managed such that there is an can lead to opportunity. And betabsence of hierarchy. Open dister decisions enable a higher likecussion of the alternatives must lihood of realising the opportunity. occur. And yes, that means there should be conflict in the meetJEFFREY D NYGAARD is vice ings. Not personal conflicts but president & country manager of conflicts that focus on the topic of discussion. A key role of the facili- Seagate Technology. Follow his article every fourth Monday of the tator is to solicit input, force month. debate but keep the conflict con-

Hi! MANAGERS

JEFFREY D. NYGAARD

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