Singapore

Half The Sky's boss aiming to level the playing field for women at work

Ms Sabrina Ho remembers the time she attended a meeting with a male colleague, only to be treated like she was the secretary or translator when she was the boss.

The client assumed Ms Ho, the managing director of executive search company KS Partners, was a subordinate because of her gender, and mostly ignored her.

Only when it was time to seal the deal that the slight was revealed.

Ever the consummate professional, Ms Ho, 36, said she carried on with the meeting as if nothing was amiss.

Through her 15 years in the recruitment industry, she has witnessed many more examples of the unequal treatment women face in the workplace.

She recounted the story of a female board member who was asked to get a glass of water for her male counterpart.

In another instance, a candidate lost out on her dream job because she was pregnant.

"I was heartbroken and sick to the stomach," said Ms Ho.

In the past, some companies even hinted they preferred to hire men over women, she added.

Determined to contribute towards levelling the playing field, she launched Half The Sky, a career platform focused on connecting female professionals with equal opportunity employers, last year.

"I was motivated to resolve this problem, to give women access to better jobs with companies that care," said Ms Ho, who has worked in Hong Kong, New York and Beijing.

The site, targeted at women at any level of their careers, has listings from organisations such as JP Morgan, DBS Bank, and UPS. Included are each company's equality policies and initiatives such as flexible working arrangements, paid parental leave, childcare facilities and leadership opportunities.

"Times are changing and old cultural structures no longer work. There is no better opportunity than now for women to be what we want to be," she said.

Half The Sky has since expanded to 11 countries in the region, including Japan, Indonesia and India.

"Employers on our platform want to hire more women to achieve a diverse work culture. It makes business sense as studies have shown that diverse companies record better performances and higher productivity."

Half The Sky is also focused on helping women equip themselves with skills. It regularly holds webinars and offers coaching, mentoring and training.

During the pandemic, the site logged thousands of women getting involved with its content.

While recent reports have shown women are disproportionately affected by the economic impact of the pandemic, Ms Ho urges displaced individuals to continue upskilling themselves, particularly in technology.

Noting that about 60 to 70 per cent of the listings on Half The Sky are tech-related, she added: "There is a high growth of technology jobs and they want women."

Even when she's not working, Ms Ho continues to fuel her mission in life.

Besides relying on a fitness regimen of high-intensity interval training to de-stress and stay sharp, she loves books about entrepreneurship and feminism.

And when the going gets tough, she relies on her mother's advice to stay the course.

"Both my parents are entrepreneurs. My mum told me, 'If you are going to run a business, do something that can help people. Be of service'."

This article was first published in The Peak (www.thepeakmagazine.com.sg)

Employment