An IMF report estimates that 26 million female-dominated jobs across 30 countries (including Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea) are at risk of disappearing. It also predicts that 180 million jobs held by women are globally are at risk of displacement. Are more women at risk to lose their jobs in the future? What is it they along with organizations and governments do to be equipped for the future?
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Sabrina Ho, Founder & CEO, of women-centric career platform Half the Sky, sheds light on why organizations should invest in upskilling women and men both themselves to remain relevant in the workforce of tomorrow.
Could you tell us a bit about Half the Sky and the journey so far?
Half the sky is a career platform connecting female talent to better job opportunities at “companies that care” and equipping them with information and data to enable them to make informed career choices.
We believe we are at the early stages of two major shifts in the workforce: the growth in flexible working arrangements and the entry of millions of underserved and untapped female talents who desire more flexible alternatives to the traditional corporate office culture.
Based on our proprietary research, company policies and initiatives such as flexible working arrangement, leadership development programs, equal pay initiatives, return to work policy and many others are critically important for females when they consider their next career move. At half the sky, we select companies who list their jobs on our platform based on these policies and initiatives with an aim to provide female talents a trusted and resourceful go-to career platform.
The journey has been exciting, although I have over 10 years of recruitment experience the learning curve from a technology side has been steep for me, but we are currently building up our team reaching out to companies who are significantly aware of the challenges of attracting, identifying, retaining and developing female talent and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Are there any organizations, according to you, that have got it right in terms of integrating and re-integrating women at work?
Yes definitely, many companies see the significant megatrends ahead in the changes of the workforce and workplace of tomorrow. They know they have to be very forward-thinking and creative on how to attract talent as salary is not the main motivator for many anymore - female talent especially desire, and are actually demanding that companies have greater flexibility in their workplace practices especially when it comes to pursuing their career whilst raising a family.
In my opinion, companies on our platform have gotten it right, they are invested in their diversity and have policies and practices that are a part of their culture rather than a policy on an employee handbook that no one knows about. They are committed in providing the best work environment for their employees to excel. These employers that embrace flexibility and invest in women will see the benefits through their ability to attract and retain female talent and improvement in the businesses bottom line.
Should re-skilling be made available to more employees (not just women) who can now with increased flexibility, take a break and then come back to work?
Yes, absolutely! This issue impacts all workers male and female.
The deep structural changes that are taking place in the global economy, due to technological innovations mean that the skills you have today may not be and probably will not be relevant in the next 5-10 years – this means it's essential that talent urgently prepare themselves to remain relevant in the workforce of tomorrow.
However, the impact of this major structural change will not be felt evenly across genders – for example, automation across many industries will result in major job losses in office and administration positions that are predominantly held by women.
An IMF report estimates that 26 million female dominated jobs across 30 countries (including Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea) are at risk of disappearing. It also predicts that 180 million women’s jobs globally are at risk of displacement. More worrying still is the fact that there is a deficit in knowledge of essential machine learning skills among women, with men outpacing them by 85%.
This demonstrates the urgent need to upskill women in these areas, companies in my opinion should see upskilling employees as a win-win proposition – but I also believe governments also need to legislate on these issues the heavy lifting should not be left to companies alone.
What are the trends seen in the field of skilling and re-skilling when it comes to women at work? What are the aspects that organizations need to look into to enable the process better and to increase its scope?
With the emergence of the digital economy the demand for a digital savvy workforce continues to expand exponentially, however, there is a major skill gap between the rapid development of this new economy and the availability of skilled talent. Women especially have lagged behind in the skills necessary to compete in the new digital economy but we are now witnessing three major trends that are shaping the pace of change to retrain and reskill talent
The first trend I see is that employees are responsible for reskilling themselves and have the resources available to do so: with the growth in eLearning platforms you can learn coding, UX design etc. all in the comfort of your own home –the access to this of wealth of information is empowering talent to take control of their future.
The second trend is that companies that are investing in creating the right environment for lifelong learning and upskilling talent are attracting and retaining the best talents: many companies are now creating fluid job scopes where there is cross functional exposure across the organisation – enabling the employee to gain a range of knowledge and skills. This approach also requires a mindset of continuous learning by the employee and greater flexibility by the employer as they move away from regimented job scopes and embrace remote working.
Thirdly, government reskilling initiatives play a crucial role. Those in power have a vital role to play in the coming years. Governments can set the tone for upskilling workforces and moving whole economies up the value chain.
“Singapore, for example, supports learning through a personal training account, called skills future which works like healthcare provision.”
This entitlement allows people to upskill; language and basic IT courses have been the most popular. The changes that are taking place shouldn’t install fear for the future of work. Instead, they create an opportunity for women to gain skills and seek leadership positions, while companies embrace flexibility and allow all employees to become the best version of themselves.
What are the challenges that you face in matching the right candidate to the right role?
As a career platform, we provide clients with a unique marketplace to access a talent pipeline of over 10,000 highly skilled female talents across several different industry verticals and the coming years, we hope to roll out our AI enabled technology which will make the process of matching even more accurate.