The First Word: How Singapore businesses can improve gender workplace experiences

THE FIRST WORD: When we talk about making the workplace a fair and equitable experience for all, the conversation is almost always skewed towards a gender pay gap. New data has reinforced the point that there is a significantly wider discussion at hand; pay and compensation are  part of a much larger gender experience gap and employers must be focused on resolving this to ensure sustainable and impactful progress. 

Gartner defines employee experience (EX) as: “the way in which employees internalise and interpret the interactions they have with their organisation, as well as the context that underlies those interactions.” Employee experiences also equals everything a person learns, does, sees and feels at each stage of their professional journey. For instance, opportunities to develop and progress become incredibly important to both employees and employers, particularly during periods of economic challenges when financial incentives may be limited or culled. Another example and essential element of experience is how a business supports employee wellbeing – both physical and mental – so they can be productive for business. 

But do these experience expectations differ between employees? 

According to recent research from Qualtrics, the workplace experiences we need to feel included, engaged, and want to stay with our organisations are largely the same for men and women. The difference exists in how positive the experiences are, with employees who identify as men more likely to have their expectations met. In Singapore, while women have comparable levels of engagement with men (66% and 69% respectively), they are less likely to say their experiences are being met at work. 

What’s more, 57% of women in Singapore are less likely to agree their pay is linked to performance compared to 62% of men. To start understanding why these differences exist, it’s time that employers pay attention to the friction points that exist. 

How to prioritise creating an equitable workplace 

Forward-thinking leaders are setting their sights on fostering a more equitable future for their organisations. Broadly, fostering equity in the workplace looks the same for each organisation: equal opportunities and fair representation for everyone. But every organisation will have unique nuances that shape the employee experience – even the most diverse and collaborative businesses can still be up against issues such as unconscious bias or discrimination among teams. 

Given that these gaps in experience can be challenging to detect and address, it becomes glaringly obvious that technology must intersect the human resource function to meet employees where they are. Data-driven insights and actionable outcomes make all the difference in managing, strategising, and measuring all aspects of the employee experience for an organisation. Without data to guide decision making, organisations risk massive blind spots in identifying issues impacting EX, such as gender pay gaps or participation barriers for women who are also most often primary caregivers. With a holistic approach to employee experience, business teams can pinpoint key drivers of engagement and receive targeted actions to drive change and implement improvements. 

Drawing on intersectional gender insights from Qualtrics’ 2023 Employee Experience Trends report, we have identified five key areas employers must prioritise to ensure workplaces are equitable for all:

  1. Review pay-for-performance practices – While 60% of employees in Singapore say their pay is linked to performance, there is a 5-point difference between the volume of women and men that agree with this statement (57% vs 62%). While occupational segregation is often pointed to as the main reason for the gender wage gap in Singapore, these findings suggest there is still a need for more transparent and fair data-driven pay and performance practices to ensure pay is fairly distributed.
  2. Seek to understand the drivers of gendered outcomes in the workforce – As demonstrated by our findings, employers wanting to provide a consistent employee experience for their entire workforce need to understand the different drivers that exist among their employee base and take systemic action on them. For example, the Qualtrics research indicates that feeling positive about being able to meet their career goals, seeing a clear link between their work and company objectives, having inclusive leaders, and work processes allowing them to be as productive as possible are the experiences that set women in Singapore up for success at work.
  3. Understand and improve the intersectional human experience – Linked to understanding the EX drivers for women at work, there will be experience gaps among different groups of women in the workforce too – whether that’s by age, ability, ethnicity, culture, job type, or level. Identifying and acting on the unique needs of different cohorts is critical. To demonstrate this reality in Singapore, the Qualtrics data shows that employees who identify as men in manager roles and aged between 20-44 have higher experience scores than women in the same roles and demographics. Looking at experiences of employees by role or demographic as a single cohort without the gender lens would result in missing these important insights.
  4. Build diverse leadership teams and an equitable opportunity for career development – As part of efforts to close the gender experience gap, its critical employers remain conscious about building diverse leadership teams reflecting the customers and employees they represent. In fact, this isn’t just good moral sense it makes good business sense too – McKinsey’s most recent Diversity wins report shows the most diverse companies outperform their peers by 36% in profitability. While one of the most pervasive drivers of EX for men and women is feeling as though their ‘career goals can be met’, the Qualtrics study shows men are slightly more positive about the opportunities afforded to help them achieve this. As such, it’s important to continually find proven ways to remove obstacles for women to achieve their goals.
  5. Go beyond the gender binary – While it is easy to limit discussions about gender equity to the experiences of men and women, gender is not binary and should always include the experiences of transgender, intersex and non-binary people. The insights from our global study (based on nearly 30,000 responses) show these employees have consistently poorer experiences at work, demonstrating the critical opportunity for employers to apply a focus on improving experiences for these employees.

Improving the gender experience gap at work

If employers are serious about making positive change, they need to understand why some groups of employees are experiencing things differently from others to help take immediate, tailored action to remove the friction points that exist. In many instances, this will improve the programs that already exist.

Ensuring the workplace is an equitable place for all requires ongoing focus and commitment from employers, and when we are successful the benefits will be felt across every aspect of society.

About the author


Dr Cecelia Herbert is a Doctor of Organisational Psychology with over 20 years of experience as a practitioner, academic, and consultant.

She joined Qualtrics in 2019 to establish and lead XM Scientist Advisory Services in Asia-Pacific, and has partnered with organisations across the globe to design, mature, and grow their XM Programs.

Prior to Qualtrics, Herbert was a leader in the Employee Engagement organisation at Google. For more than a decade, her work has centered on developing evidence-based solutions that drive systemic change in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Herbert is an experienced facilitator and coach, leveraging scientific and data-driven methods to address complex challenges, and communicating in a way that is simple, effective, and practical.

At XM Institute, Cecelia is committed to building a thriving community of XM professionals, who are empowered and inspired to radically improve human experiences.

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Chief of Staff Asia