Let’s face it, “adulting” is hard. And women have it extra hard when it comes to their professional careers as often times we have to juggle motherhood along with it. Often times, it feels as if there isn’t enough hours in a day to get everything we want done. Furthermore, while the corporate landscape is certainly advancing, there are still systemic issues that women face daily when it comes to their profession. Whether it’s equal pay or equal opportunity, some sectors in the economy are slower than others at advancing women’s rights. This is especially true for male-dominated sectors. Regardless whether you are in Public Relations or Engineering, we can all use some tips on navigating the uncertain terrain of the corporate landscape. Take the lead in getting the promotion and pay raise you deserve, and defining your needs in the workplace.
Speaking of taking the lead, we spoke to local girl bosses, Sabrina Ho and Val Yap for some tips on getting ahead. Sabrina Ho is the founder and CEO of Half The Sky, a platform that empowers women in the workforce, linking job seekers up with companies that don’t marginalise women for promotions or equal pay. Meanwhile, Val Yap recently published a book on the struggles and successes of being a solo female founder, and hopes to encourage more females to join the tech start-up ecosystem.
ON NEGOTIATING FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS
If caring for your children or other family matters require you to work from home for part of the week, here’s how to go about it
‘‘Flexible work arrangements are becoming increasingly more common across many companies but if your company doesn’t have this practice in place, it’s still ok for you to ask for it.
Just as you would negotiate for your salary, start by making a plan, and be clear on what flexible work arrangement it is that you need. Is it coming into the office an hour later on a daily basis? Or needing to work from home part of the week? Once you know what it is that you need, approach your manager to discuss your need for flexible work arrangements If your manager makes you feel bad for requesting this, maybe you should consider whether this is a company or manager you should be sacrificing your family for.
Most companies understand that juggling family and work is a difficult task, and will not hesitate to find an arrangement that works for both. Don’t feel guilty for requesting flexible arrangements. Having a fully functioning employee is in the best interest of the employer. If you have been given flexible work arrangements [say] to work from home one day of the week, don’t abuse it. It’s important to show your employer that there is not a drop in your productivity, but that it actually increases your engagement, enthusiasm and commitment for the work that you do.” — Sabrina Ho
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ON NEGOTIATING A PAY RAISE
The low-down on opening the conversation, pitching for an amount, and seeing it through
‘‘Firstly, be prepared to ask. I know this sounds very simplistic, but many women fail to ask for a pay raise compared to their male counterparts. Not asking for that pay raise can cost you significantly over the course of your career, which is detrimental to yourself and family. Why get paid less than your worth? #EqualPayForEqualWork
Once you have decided you are ready to ask, take some time to conduct market research and understand your market value by reviewing salary rates for your current position. Get an understanding [of] whether you are paid above or below market rate.
After doing your homework, you will be armed with enough data to make an informed decision on how much you should ask for. My advice is always to pick a range between what would make you happy, and what would make you run around the office screaming for joy.
As for the difficult part of opening the conversation with your boss… In my experience, if he or she creates the feeling of fear and trepidation when it comes to asking for a pay raise, you’re probably working for the wrong boss or company. Remember, a negotiation isn’t about one person winning and the other losing. It’s about each party giving a little to keep, or get what they want most.
Walking into your manager’s office and demanding X or Y typically doesn’t work for most women. A more successful approach is calling your manager for a meeting and laying out your contributions to the organisation and the progress, and responsibilities that you are undertaking.
Then, explain why your pay raise will also benefit the organisation. For example: this pay raise will keep you happy, motivated and eager to take on more responsibilities to contribute to the further success of the team and company. This should have your manager eager to grant you a pay raise!
Now that you’ve asked, be ready for the pushback. If you get a yes the first time around, you’re an excellent negotiator and don’t need any advice from me. But the majority of women may not experience such positive outcomes. A pushback on your opening request is normal. If you find yourself in this situation, just revert back to the range that you set at the beginning of the process.
If the offer you receive is below the range you set, don’t accept it, but anything in between is what you set as a goal. Always remember your salary range during the negotiation process — it makes life much easier.
A final piece of advice once your pay raise request has been accepted, set a timeline for implementation preferably in writing from your human resources manager.” — Sabrina Ho
ON EXCELLING IN A MALE-DOMINATED ENVIRONMENT
Feeling lonely or marginalised because you’re one of the few women in your workplace? This is how one female leader tackles the course-changing obstacles and the day-to-day challenges
‘‘Things weren’t always smooth-sailing, especially not as a young female founder. In my early days of fundraising, many investors queried me on personal matters; about my relationship status, and whether I [was] planning to start a family. I don’t think male founders will have to answer such questions, but as a female, many tend to doubt my ability to lead a team. I’ve spoken to fellow female founders who lead [tech start-ups], and we’ve rationalised this: they may be worried that after investing in the company, we’ll get married, start a family, and eventually lose focus. There’s no better way to assure them than to just be honest.
The female colleagues at my company face the same problem. When working with partners or clients with a more traditional mindset, they tend to worry that our female colleagues may not be able to commit as much time to work, as their priority is on their families. [The women] are also expected to look more polished than [the men], as there is a general attitude that females do not care about their work if they do not dress nicely, or put on makeup.
Here’s the thing though: the way you look doesn’t determine your capabilities and quality of work. Everyone (men and women) still has to look presentable, but over time, your work is what will change mindsets.
I guess running into sexism is still a norm in this industry, simply because the tech industry is still mostly male-dominated. According to statistics, women only make up 20 per cent of the workforce in the industry (when they are 47 per cent of the total workforce). Many people who are in and out of the industry have a traditional mindset that only males can code (I’ve met many females in the industry that can do a better job!) — and this isn’t made better by how the media has portrayed the tech industry as one that’s male-heavy in the past.
Due to the gender ratio disparity in the tech industry, females can sometimes feel lonely, and isolated. I know I do. The best, and most common example is when I find myself being the only female in meetings. So, as a female leader in this industry, I’d like to think that I’m making a difference with this gender perspective with my company. Our team of 20 is relatively gender-equal, with team members of different races and nationalities. We’re young, energised, and adopt a non-discriminatory mindset against each other.
That said, I’m thankful that I entered this ecosystem early, and have crossed paths with a few other female founders. This [has] allowed me to create a strong support group, which really helps when you’re in need of advice, or need someone to talk to. That’s also my biggest tip to ladies who are planning to join the tech industry. But, at the end of the day, I believe that people will treat you based on how you teach them to treat you. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” — Val Yap
ON WORKING TOWARDS A LEADERSHIP ROLE
Pro tips for remaining top of mind when the time for a promotion comes, and that’s more than just producing stellar work
‘‘We all want to be acknowledged, valued, and more importantly, respected in the workplace, and be seen as that next great candidate for a leadership role or promotion. It is not uncommon to be overlooked. My advice is to focus on what you can control. It’s easy to start stressing about what others are doing or thinking. Ensure your job is done well, but don’t forget to network — make yourself visible to the right people.
Remember to have an opinion, as there is no point in thinking how great you are at your job if nobody hears those great ideas that you have to improve things in the company. Finally, find your voice: if you are pursuing a leadership role, let people know that you are somebody that they can trust and follow.
It’s a fine line between appearing confident in your achievements, and bragging. Confidence comes from believing in yourself and actually having the skills and knowledge. Bragging on the other hand is showing off without actually having the skills or know-how to back it up. By knowing the difference, you would feel confident about yourself and know that you are as capable as your colleagues. Sharing your achievements is a demonstration of your confidence in your ability — never be afraid to showcase that.
I have noticed during my journey in executive search that the most successful leaders don’t rise to the top based on paper qualifications alone, but through the experiences they have gained, mentorship, and being able to harness the teaching of life’s lessons. I believe these five leadership qualities are highly valued: being empathetic, having a clear vision, being persistent, being accountable, and having a growth mindset.” — Sabrina Ho
ON ASSUMING LEADERSHIP AND MANAGING A TEAM
The realities of having to make the tough decisions, understanding the needs of your employees, and keeping moral up
‘‘The one thing that people don’t realise is that as a leader of a company, there are many hard decisions to make. Things aren’t as glamourous as it seems on the outside; there are many issues behind the scenes that require you to weigh the pros and cons before coming to a decision. It’s a struggle that many CEOs, including myself, do not share with the rest of the team.
In the course of the four years as the founder of my company, I’ve learnt that difficult decisions have to be made in order for the company to move forward. For example, we’ve had to do some restructuring within the company a while ago. It was a very painful decision to make as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the entire team — we did build our successes together, after all.
I didn’t want to have to restructure, but I had to for the company to progress. As difficult as it is, the best thing to do in my position is to convey this message clearly to the team. Thankfully, my team understands this decision and are now working towards the same goal.
For things to work out well, leading the team in an inspiring manner is a heavy responsibility on my shoulders. I adopt a transformational leadership style that aims to create a clear vision for my team. That said, it’s important to understand my team’s personal values and goals as well, so that we can align it all with the company’s mission statement. I constantly remind the team of our purpose, because that’s the driving force behind why we get up every day, and do what we do. Of course, I always try to understand my co-workers from their perspective — especially when it comes to ladies with family priorities. When they request for work flexibility, such as leaving work slightly earlier to pick [up] their children, or taking urgent leave when their kids are unwell, I’m happy to let them take care of the familial needs. I believe that when my team is motivated, they will put in their best effort and perform at work.” — Val Yap