According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021, it will take over 130 years to achieve gender equality. The pandemic and its simultaneous economic crisis has further placed more women in a vulnerable position. A McKinsey study found that while women represent 39% of the global workforce, 54% lost their jobs. This is in part due to how the pandemic exacerbates existing gender stereotypes, where women bear the brunt of caretaker responsibilities as schools and offices close and family members fall ill.
Despite this gloom-ridden outlook, Wallex is doing its best to be an accommodating and empowering workplace for women. Even before Covid-19, Wallex has empathised with the dual roles that women take in their professional and personal lives. So, our fintech start-up has normalised flexible working arrangements, such as work-from-home, for employees to balance their family and work life well - without compromising one for the other.
In general, men tend to be put in certain leadership positions that very few women have access to. This relates to the lack of exposure for women which in turn, results in them lacking skills and expertise for a leadership role. At Wallex, our founders recognise the importance of levelling the playing field and encouraging everyone regardless of gender to maximise their potential and grow. Providing equal opportunities for learning and development has enabled more women to take on management roles in the company. In light of this, 50% of our senior management team in Singapore are women.
Amongst four out of five of our female leaders, the majority of their respective team members are women. This International Women's Day, we speak to four of the team Heads - Han Huiying (Group Head of Operations), Vidhi Shah (Group Head of Marketing), Xinni Chia (Head of Compliance) and Xu Jiaxin (Group Head of Product and Strategy) - to learn more about their journey and how they pave the path forward for other members of their teams.
What do you hope will change with #BreakTheBias?
We hope that this year's International Women's Day movement further advocates for an environment where men do not make stereotypical assumptions in everyday interactions and all females are given equal opportunities in work, schools and community.
Gender stereotypes create widely accepted biases, especially for women in the workplace. It affects interactions, recruitment decisions, promotions, growth within the company - just about everything. From discussions over smoke breaks to perceptions of working moms. From expecting women to wash all the cups in the pantry to comments about it being "that time of the month". All are manifestations of gender bias at work.
Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, once said "Unconscious bias can have a toxic effect on how women view their own worth in the workplace."
We encourage more allies to step up this year and recognise the detrimental effects of creeping biases. Recognising the problem is half the battle won. From there on, it will be an easier ride ahead. Let us recognise the value of open-mindedness and using inclusive language.
How do you find Wallex practices when it comes to gender equality?
Huiying: Since day one, I was given an equal chance to speak out, equal chance to work on tasks and take on challenges as my male colleagues.
Vidhi: Over my last two years here, I have seen the founders place tremendous faith in the women in this company. The company has been consistently recognising and promoting female talent internally, investing in coaching and mentoring us, as well as consciously trying to bridge the gender disparity in departments like tech. Our leadership team is 50% women! I love it and hope there are more founders and team members like the folks at Wallex.
Xinni: I did not think about gender inequality until we were asked about it! Even then, it is difficult to think of cases of inequality.
Jiaxin: One of the reasons I joined Wallex was because of our founder Hiro’s response when I told him I was pregnant one day before our interview was supposed to take place. I vividly remember him assuring me “I do not discriminate against pregnant women”. So if you ask me, Wallex is ahead of our time in terms of our hiring practice and taking a strong stance against gender discrimination.
What can other founders and managers do to #BreakTheBias?
It is vital to have fair hiring practices, such as hiring based on skills and competencies. Men and women should not be evaluated by different metrics. That way, everyone will be more supportive and we all are better equipped to award well-deserved success.
It is key to recognise that impactful leaders and team members are not limited by gender.
Other than that, we believe in encouraging our female team members to dream big and that they are equal to men.
We strive to create an inclusive environment where team members regardless of gender can seek support and mentoring whenever needed.
What is the most important advice you received and would like to pay forward to help other women in their journey and careers?
Huiying: Be bold. Dream big and dare to take calculated risks. Be your authentic self!
Vidhi: Call out biases. Until you do, nothing will change. Never ever underestimate yourself.
Xinni: Acknowledge your accomplishments and accept praise gracefully.
Jiaxin: Do not detest the additional work that is put on your plate and consider these tasks as learning opportunities.