Lin Yanqin,

WITH women a minority in the upper echelons of companies in Singapore, nearly half feel that they will not reach a senior management position, a survey of women in the finance and accounting sector revealed.

Add to that the desire for work-life balance — the priority for 59 per cent of the respondents — and that 53 per cent of the women will leave their jobs for one with lesser pay in order to achieve it, it’s a worrying insight for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Women make up 66 per cent of its 9,000 members.

Given the accounting and finance industry’s long hours, women choosing to exit the industry would drain it of much-needed talent, said ACCA country head Penelope Phoon-Cohen.

“The work-life balance situation has to improve (if we want to retain talent),” saidMs Phoon-Cohen, speaking on the survey results at a media briefing yesterday.

Women in accounting, she added, tend to leave the industry because of family commitments.

The survey by recruitment firm Robert Half Singapore and ACCA — which collected over 700 responses in March — found that 39 per cent of the women surveyed did not see women in their companies’ board of directors.

In addition, nearly half the respondents said their companies had formal equal opportunity or diversity policies, while 32 per cent said their companies’ did not have any, and 21 percent were not aware if their companies’ had one at all.

Employers need to do more about this, said Robert Half managing director Tim Hird, as a lack of formal policy means a lack of security and reassurance to employees on their career development policies.

While the survey showed that employers needed to do more to formalise and communicate policies assuring employees of equal opportunities, Mr Hird also felt that women should be more vocal about their workplace needs.

“We’ve seen women who want to leave their companies because they said they wanted more work-life balance, but they don’t actually know about the opportunities (to do so) in their companies,” he said.

Women may hesitate to bring up work-life needs in the current economic climate for fear of appearing unproductive.

However, open communication is necessary in order to avoid “grey areas”, whether it is work-life needs left unmet, or women feeling that they lack the opportunity to move up, said Mr Hird.

From, News – Friday, 22-May-2009; see the source article here.

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