Diversity Matters!

Worried you’ll be at a disadvantage for not being part of the status quo? Don’t be. Focus on bringing more to the boardroom table instead!
Nurhuda Syed
Editor, gradsingapore
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Being a meritocratic society, equality and diversity are generally accepted as core values for our city-state.

Most employers here understand the importance of equal opportunities and diversity for its workforce, as employees from different backgrounds are able to bring varying perspectives and ideas that may potentially help to grow the business.

However, if you’re worried that your gender, race, or religion might put you at a disadvantage, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and several other organisations have developed guidelines and programmes to keep employers in check.

Addressing concerns

Race and religion

Singapore has anti-discrimination laws in place to protect the cohesive nature of our multicultural society.

Article 12 of the Singapore constitution prohibits any discrimination – in terms of religion, race, descent and place of birth – in “establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment”.

  • Disadvantage when applying

According to a study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, more than 50 percent of the respondents never or rarely felt racially discriminated against when applying for a job.

In contrast, less than 20 percent surveyed said that they were often discriminated against during the process – this is indicative of a relatively fair employment process for a majority of the industry.

  • Day-to-day environment

Considering how Singaporeans have grown accustomed to living with people from different races and religions, colleagues are generally tolerant and accepting of the cultural diversity in the office. 

Almost 70 percent of respondents from IPS’s study said that they never or rarely felt any discrimination at work.

Employers would also generally ensure a safe, inclusive, and conducive environment in the office for all their staff members.

  • Job promotions

Career progression is mostly dependent on your level of dedication to your work. So if you can prove yourself, the rest should fall into place.

More than 50 percent of the study’s respondents stated that they never or rarely felt at a disadvantage when being considered for a job promotion.

Gender

Open gender discrimination is a rare occurrence in Singapore’s diverse workforce, and this focus on gender equality continues to play a pivotal role in the country’s economic development. 

There are also programmes in place that aim to improve any perceived gender inequalities within an organisation.

  • Natural bias

Some industries are more male- or female-oriented due to a natural inclination for either gender to choose a specific sector.

For instance, the long hours and manual labour synonymous with the construction industry have led to a mostly male workforce.

There are, however, female engineers and architects who oversee projects – so understand the nature of the job before you make any presumptive judgements about a company.

  • Career progression

Climbing the corporate ladder has nothing to do with your gender, rather your ability to prove yourself and your dedication to your work. Hence, learn to focus on expanding your skills and applying your strengths to progress in the company.

Most employers here understand the importance of equal opportunities and diversity for its workforce, as employees from different backgrounds are able to bring varying perspectives and ideas.

Industry-wide initiatives

If you feel discriminated against at any point of your employment, the MOM and Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) may act as mediators for your case. Both bodies aim to perpetuate a fair and safe employment landscape for all employees.

They provide the following resources and guidelines for employers to refer to:

MOM

  • Fair Consideration Framework

The framework provides a guideline on fair hiring requirements for companies in Singapore. The MOM takes serious action against reported cases of discriminatory job advertisements or nationality-based discriminatory employment practices.

  • Workplace diversity management toolkit

The toolkit helps companies understand the importance of maintaining a diverse workplace, and how to put in place diversity management practices and policies.

TAFEP

  • Mediators

Trained TAFEP officers are on hand to provide counsel and assist you if you encounter any discrimination throughout the application process or at the workplace.

  • Pledge

If an employer is certified as a TAFEP pledge signer, it shows their commitment to the organisation’s five key principles of fair employment practices. To date, more than 4000 employers have signed the pledge.

Focus on moving forward

Employers generally have an outline regarding managing diversity – large companies even have dedicated departments or programmes in place. Hence, instead of focusing on the negative, try and keep the following points in mind throughout your career:

  • Trust your instincts: If you don’t feel comfortable with the job/employer, don’t accept the offer
  • Always work on building your skills and experiences
  • Bank on your differences and use it as a strength to get ahead

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