Breaking Glass Ceilings In The Workplace

A glass ceiling is an unacknowledged barrier in a profession that restricts advancement, and this is especially the case for women and minority races. Today, we see many women breaking these glass ceilings, paving the way to better workplaces for generations to come. On this special occasion of International Women’s Day, it is the opportune time to recognise and celebrate the many successes and progresses that we have seen in the stride of women empowerment. However, we also have to acknowledge that these triumphant moments are here because of the challenges women have to overcome beforehand.

Despite the growing awareness of gender inequality in the workplace, issues such as gender pay gaps and biases still exist. Even if we are not directly affected by these circumstances, we should still be aware of the existing issues by knowing how we can play a part in creating an egalitarian environment suited for all. With that, let us take a look at the unacknowledged obstacles that women still face in the workplace.

Pay Gap

It is no secret to us that there is a pay gap discrepancy between men and women in the workplace. According to Women Icons Network, women who enter the workforce get paid a significantly lower wage compared to men applying for the same positions in the same field, and the gap seems to increase when both parties advance in their respective careers. Although it is not common practice, some employers in Singapore offer men higher salaries because they may see the need to compensate for their time spent in military service. Furthermore, due to inherent gender differences, women may tend to avoid jobs in sectors that are traditionally male-dominated, such as IT and engineering, which are more inclined to be high-paying. This then leads to an under-representation of women in certain industries.

To encourage equal pay, employers can start to adopt policies where salaries are made transparent among their employees. The aim of this transparency is to eliminate the possibility that unequal pay between the two genders could go unnoticed. In recent years, we have also noticed a new policy that has been increasing in implementation, and that is to conduct a pay audit to help discover if a pay gap truly exists for the same work. By this, employees can understand if they are paid fairly without having the concern that such discrepancies can go by under the radar, hence providing a greater assurance and security in knowing that an even pay among the genders is provided. There are also several local government agencies conducting outreach programmes for young women encouraging them to join the tech industry so that they have an equal chance of earning a fair wage.

On this note, The Business Times has reported that Singapore has been active in tackling the issues regarding the pay gap. By this, we have seen a gradual improvement from 8.8% in 2002 to 6% as of 2018 in the pay gap discrepancy between the two genders. On a global level, with numbers of roughly 17% in the gender pay gap margins, it is a relief to know that our local efforts have not been in vain. Through this, we are aware that a number of local companies are beginning to look into adopting the above-mentioned policies to create a fair and equal work environment for women.


Beyond the gender pay gap, another issue that has been brought to light in recent years is a lack of women representation seen in higher positions in the workplace. As we slowly climb up the corporate ladder to take a look towards the top positions in the office, we see an even more drastic imbalance between the genders.

Before the mid 20th century when women were expected to stay at home to cook, clean, and care for their families, it was not the norm for a professional career or occupation. Fast forward to the present day, and that is drastically different. Article A: A Gender-Inclusive Workforce reported that in Singapore, 61.2% of women in the year 2020, are a part of the labour force participants, suggesting that the new norm for the women of our local community is to work and have an income. With that said, women’s consideration of non-career-related aspirations such as being a mother is a large factor that contributes to the number of non-working women in the nation.

Through the efforts of fighting for women’s equality, we are slowly seeing the fruits of our labour. With an increasing number of women seizing opportunities to rise the ranks of the corporate ladder, there have been prominent shifts in representation at higher levels in the workplace. In this feat, we witness plenty of benefits that come with a dual representation in the board of high position holders, and one of which is that it allows for the strengths of men and women to harmoniously work together by the unique capabilities that we provide in the nature of our genes.

Of the many ways that we can help overcome this issue, one effective way to increase the representation of women is to promote a culture of meritocracy, resulting in a fair assessment of potential employees regarding their ability, skills, effort, and performances.

With all that said, we are very proud to say that women have not only started pushing for higher positions in the office but have started running their own companies. In recent years, we have seen a vast increase in the number of women leaders in the nation, and moreover, in the year 2021, The Singapore Women’s Weekly has shared a list of six elite and highly successful women who have made it to the top in their respective fields and achieved gender parity in their departments.

In a nutshell, the world we know today is vastly different from the world that the people of a hundred years ago lived in. Working women were unheard of and it would be a shock to the stereotypical system of that time. Although we have seen tremendous improvements on a global scale, it is also important to recognise within ourselves that we have a part to play to continue this effort in creating a better workplace for everyone.

As we move forward, let us take some time to appreciate the women in our lives and give them our support. May we continue to progress as a society to overcome gender biases for a better workplace in the future!