A government-backed group in Singapore is using the name-and-shame approach to boost executive level gender diversity within organizations. According to a report by Bloomberg, after discovering that some 38 of Singapore’s 100 biggest companies had entirely male boards, two years ago the Diversity Action Committee (DAC) began a well-publicized biannual ranking of firms based on gender representation. By the end of June 2018, the number of corporations with no women on their boards fell to 27. DAC also says that percentage of board seats held by women in Singapore’s top 100 companies has risen from 9.5 per cent in December 2015 to 14.7 per cent.

While it seems like a great idea on the surface, this may not be the long-term solution to boost the female participation in the workforce. Also, the approach may also increase hostility against women at the workplace.

The said list also highlights companies that outperform regarding gender. However, it also puts female executives at risk of intense scrutiny since it looks as if companies are being strong-armed into appointing them.

Name and Shame approach may have its downside

Gender discrimination, whether conscious or sub-conscious keeps syphoning women out of the corporate culture. As a result of which there are just a handful of women worthy of a position on the board of directors.  There are numerous reasons ranging from patriarchal pressure at home and bias stemming from sexism in offices, which attributes to low gender diversity in corporate. I agree that increased female participation is profitable to both women and the companies, but shouldn’t such an initiative work its way up from ground level? To ensure that talented women always find a way to the top of the corporate ladder?

GROUND REALITIES

  • Diversity Action Committee, Singapore, began a well-publicized biannual ranking of firms based on gender representation two years ago.
  • The idea is to name and shame companies with no female members on the board of directors.
  • As a result of this initiative, the number of those without women directors has gone down from 38 to 27.
  • But would this solve the problem of continuously slipping strength of women in the corporate sector?

This indicates to a deeper problem in the corporate sector, the answer to which partly lies in retaining as many talented female employees as possible on lower levels. From failure to maintain a work-life balance, to patriarchy in Asian society, which doesn’t consider women capable of excelling in work outside of their home, to a sexist mindset of superiors which leads to trivialisation of talent and effort put in by a female employee. There are many reasons why women gradually drop out of the race for a seat on the board of directors.

Naming and shaming organizations and sending them scrambling for female members on board won’t solve the problem.

Any woman must get her position on the basis of her talent and performance. This is only possible when women do not face gender-based discrimination on the lower level.

They mustn’t be side-lined from professional progress because of misogynist mindset.  Hence allowing them to work their way up and compete fair and square with male counterparts.

This will also make their male colleagues less hostile towards them. It will make their ascent to the table of decision-making more acceptable. This is necessary, if we don’t want female executives to be loathed or be facing gender discrimination, because that would undo the entire purpose of the exercise.

There is an immediate need to improve gender diversity in the corporate sector, from top to bottom. But naming and shaming will only produce half-baked and topical results. To increase the number of women in the workforce and to ensure their increased participation at the top-level, the remodelling needs to start at ground level and work its way up. We cannot expect any initiative built on shaming to bring in desired results. Because attempts to establish gender diversity should stem from willingness and not fear of backlash.

Picture Credit: theinclusionsolution.me

Also Read : Women in Corporate Ladder: Understanding the Dwindling Numbers

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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