How women can navigate to the top of their organizations

In Singapore, well-educated and highly literate women make up half of the resident workforce. One would think that women would not face gender inequality.

But, the reality is that the percentage of women in leadership positions is far less than men. The imbalance increases as organizational level goes up. The 2015 Singapore Board Diversity Report revealed that among 676 SGX-listed companies, only 9.5% of board directors, 4.5% of CEOs, and 3.3% of chairpersons were female.

We interviewed 21 senior Singapore women leaders about their leadership journeys. Despite the uniqueness of each, some common themes were uncovered. Read the full report, or scroll to learn more.

Key challenges of becoming senior women leaders

The “male-centric” work environment has a pace and expectation of work that is less suitable for women. Women need to find a way to “fit in.”

Another challenge is work-life balance. Women play multiple roles in their lives. In an Asian country like Singapore, women are still expected to assume more family responsibilities. It is not impossible to balance, but some compromise is necessary.

Factors that contributed to their success

The driven and ambitious women we interviewed know what they want. They work toward their goals. They also received support from people around them: friends, colleagues, mentors, and family. Some tips they shared for aspiring women leaders:

  • Be clear about priorities and goals
  • Embrace change and challenge
  • Be confident
  • Review your own stereotype

Organizational support

Organizations play a critical role in developing more women leaders. Women succeed in organizations that value, invest in, and track talent – and make special effort to support leadership development. Some practices that are worth spreading include:

  • Recognize the value women talent bring
  • Take a long-term view of women talent
  • Purposefully foster a culture conducive for women
  • Review HR policies for gender preference and bias and remove them


The women featured in the report also reflected on their journey and shared their wisdom as women, as leaders, and as human beings.

“Don’t be idealistic. In order to juggle multiple roles, sometimes you have to live with some untidiness or imperfections. You have to take a bit of risk and trust that things will turn out well.”

“Don’t worry so much about prejudice. I think very often, the opportunities are meant for you to create … go be a trend setter.”

“Never aspire to the C-suite because you want power; aspire to that because you feel that you believe in that mission and you can contribute and add value to it.”

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Want the complete story? You can get additional success factors, organizational practices and inspirational reflections in the free 36-page report.