A Business Case For Inclusion In Asia

A Business Case For Inclusion In Asia

Many companies in Asia are on the path towards rapid expansion across the region’s highly fragmented market. Unprecedented technological disruption and a shortage of people with skills in creativity and innovation are common headwinds that fast-growing companies face.

According to research from PWC in 2018, over 90% of Singapore business leaders believe a solution lies in talent diversity and inclusion. Yet, Asian norms present a challenge for business leaders and diversity advocates.

While American, Australian and European ideals generally celebrate difference, individuality and heterogeneity; a majority of Asian cultures emphasise the primacy of social harmony and the value of collective action. Diversity & Inclusion: An Asia Perspective, Mercer 2012

The Asian legislative landscape for inclusion does little to help the situation. The region is home to a patchwork of policies and practices:

  • Most Asian countries have policies promoting greater workforce participation of people with disabilities
  • Gender equality and support for working parents are increasingly on the agenda
  • Promotion of multi-generational talent has become an economic necessity in Japan, Singapore and other aging markets.

Yet, policies are often poorly understood and enforcement is generally weak. Furthermore prevailing social stigma often results in LGBT, ethnic minorities and people from other marginalised groups being excluded from the talent pool. Thus inclusion in Asia, or lack thereof, has largely been driven by business imperatives.

When companies in Asia are considering the adoption of inclusive hiring practices, business leaders must be prepared to address three common misconceptions among hiring managers:

  • assumptions that accommodating the needs of women, persons with disabilities and people from other underrepresented groups will yield low return on investment
  • concern that diverse perspectives will negatively disrupt established workplace cultures
  • diversifying talent pools requires employment standards to be lowered.

If you need to convince your hiring managers to make their recruitment processes more inclusive, here are five benefits that companies gain when they are inclusive:

Follow Catalyse Consulting and stay informed with news and resources tailored to help organisational leaders in Asia cultivate an inclusive, high-performing environment.

Copyright © 2019 Catalyse Consulting. All rights reserved.

The Keys For Making Modern Campuses Safer and More Inclusive

The Keys For Making Modern Campuses Safer and More Inclusive

By Laurindo Garcia, Content Lead – Catalyse Consulting

In times of crisis, it is expected that Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) express their duty of care in a manner and tone that is in sync with prevailing cultural norms.

Given that our interconnected age is dominated by a 24-hour news cycle, instant messaging and social media, IHLs cannot afford a slow and protracted response to a crisis. Nor is it acceptable to exclude the voices of students – unintentionally or intentionally – in significant decisions affecting campus life.

There is a greater chance that stakeholders will view processes as fair and inclusive when duty bearers include students, staff, academics and the broader community in a consultative, transparent and time bound approach. Mutual agreement between all parties may not be possible all the time. However cynicism decreases when leaders listen to the concerns and needs of all stakeholders with sincerity.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is an excellent example of how higher learning institutions can create a safer, empathetic and productive environment for campus members through an expeditious review process that gives weight to the voices of all stakeholders. Leaders of other academic institutions can take their cue from the speed and manner in which NUS acted in a time of crisis.

By improving the portionality of policies, enhancing support procedures for victims, and empowering employees, NUS is in a better position to manage sexual misconduct more effectively.

Here are three lessons that leaders of higher institutions should consider for their own organisations:

1. NUS improved the proportionality of its sexual misconduct policies through a swift, yet consultative internal review 

Why is this important?

The recommended changes were tabled swiftly after all university stakeholders – including students, staff and faculty – were invited to contribute to a consultative and transparent process. By way of introducing discretionary jurisdiction, the new policy raised the benchmark on sanctions that struck a delicate balance between: a) addressing stakeholders’ concern that sanctions are too lenient; and, b) ensuring equitable proportionality of sanctions.

Catalyse Consulting hopes to see the spirit of proportionality, inclusivity and equity “come alive” in the execution of the policies.

2. NUS enhanced its on-campus support network by training approximately 400 employees to become first responders to sexual misconduct through customised instruction delivered by Catalyse Consulting. 

Why is this important? 

As the first point of contact for a survivor of sexual misconduct, the quality of a first responder conversation with the survivor is significant in three ways.

Firstly, according to research from AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC), good first responder conversations contribute to survivor knowing what options for justice are available and feeling in control of the situation. Bad first responder conversations can re-traumatise the survivor and prolong the healing process. 

Secondly, first responders have influence on whether a victim files a formal complaint or report. Whilst seeking a report to be filed should never come at the expense of a victim’s right to choose, what is critical is that a first responder has the necessary skills to support the survivor’s autonomy of choice.. 

Finally, a poorly handled first responder conversation may be construed as a university being dismissive of the victim’s experiences. Therefore a university’s reputation is at significant risk while student-facing staff lack quality first responder training.

Catalyse Consulting hopes that first responder training will be cascaded down to student leaders because fellow students are often the first point of contact for victims.

3. NUS invested in setting up a dedicated Victim Care Unit (VCU) on campus and a separate unit to support offenders.

Why is this important?

In the wake of sexual misconduct victims, offenders and the public have unique and diverse needs. By working with AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre, NUS is demonstrating its commitment to providing holistic care and support to survivors throughout their journey of healing. This level of commitment is equally demonstrated for offenders with the establishment of a separate and independent  rehabilitation unit. 

The creation of a VCU at NUS demonstrates an enlightened and progressive approach. Catalyse Consulting hopes to see more universities and other institutes of higher learning in Asia follow NUS’ leadership with dedicated and holistic care and support for victims and offenders.

Upon reflecting on NUS’ journey, Catalyse Consulting urges all leaders of higher learning institutions to consider the following five recommendations:

Follow Catalyse Consulting and stay informed with news and resources tailored to help organisational leaders in Asia cultivate an inclusive, high-performing environment.

Copyright © 2019 Catalyse Consulting. All rights reserved.

Managing Professional Boundaries in the Workplace

Managing Professional Boundaries in the Workplace

How do we set healthy boundaries at work?

While we’ve made tremendous progress around gender bias and equality, harassment in the workplace remains a delicate topic in Singapore.

Workplace harassment is any unwelcome conduct that arises from work, which causes harassment, alarm or distress to another person. It can violate a person’s dignity or create an unfavourable work environment for him/her.

In the case of sexual harassment, there is also the taboo associated with talking about sexual assault and victims are often afraid of losing their jobs and a steady source of income.

In more recent years, the statistics from AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre, who have been tracking complaints about workplace sexual harassment, confirm that sexual harassment continues to be a problem. It may also be a sign that people are becoming better educated about avenues to report such incidents.

Workplace harassment negatively impacts workplace culture as well. Research shows that it undermines employee morale and can cause productivity to decline.

Managing Professional Boundaries is a sharing session devoted to real conversations about the different forms of harassment at work. In this session participants will learn:

– How to recognize workplace harassment

– How to handle harassment situations and to do so in an assertive yet tactful manner

– How to draw boundaries diplomatically

– Techniques and tips for being an active by-stander.

– What support services are available

It is never too late to start meaningful transformations to your workplace. Come, join us on 19th June!

Speaker: Roslina Chai, Managing Director of Catalyse Consulting

Inclusive Workplaces: Calling Out Motherhood Bias. Panel Discussion 23rd May 2019

Inclusive Workplaces: Calling Out Motherhood Bias. Panel Discussion 23rd May 2019

If it is true that Singapore’s greatest asset is its people, why is it that a large number of Singaporean women in their prime are absent from the workforce, especially compared to their male counterparts?

It so happens that the majority of Singaporean women in their prime are mothers as well.

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Force Survey 2018, most of the women in their 30s and 40s who were outside the labour force were not looking for a job because of family responsibilities, with childcare (56.5%) being the most common reason cited.

The lack of childcare options and flexible work arrangements, and the societal attitude of placing the primary parenting role on women have contributed to women dropping out of the workforce.

Another reason for this is something called the “motherhood bias“, a form of gender-based discrimination in which employers and colleagues view mothers, or pregnant women, as less competent and less committed to their jobs.

The impact of motherhood bias further exacerbates existing gender disparities and leads to negative outcomes.

In March 2018, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo highlighted in Parliament that comparative to Singaporean men, fewer Singaporean women achieve retirement adequacy in terms of being able to meet their CPF Basic Retirement Sum.

A 2018 report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates that advancing gender equality could boost Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) by an additional US$20 billion, or 5%, by 2025.

Join us for a panel discussion on May 23rd, as we explore questions such as:

  • What kind of recruitment, remuneration and career progression policies can employers put in place to retain Singaporean mothers?
  • What needs to change to make it easier for Singaporean mothers to return to work?
  • What can mothers do to increase their likelihood of remaining in the workforce?
  • What practices have worked for organisations in other countries?


  • Corinna Lim, Executive Director at AWARE
  • Godelieve van Dooren , Partner at Mercer
  • Sher-li T, Founder at Mums@Work
  • Payal Pisal, Parenthood Committee member at Twitter
  • Panel Moderator: Roslina Chai, Managing Director at Catalyse Consulting

Register your seats at: https://inclusive-workplace-catalyseconsulting.eventbrite.sg

One Is Too Many: Handling Harassment at Work. Panel Discussion 22 January 2018

One Is Too Many: Handling Harassment at Work. Panel Discussion 22 January 2018

Harassment at work happens more often than it is addressed. Whether or not sexual by nature, it is as real as it is distressing.

#MeToo is a hashtag that went viral on social media in October 2017, as men and women all over the world chimed in to share personal stories of undergoing harassment, following sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. While the Weinstein debacle was largely focused on sexual harassment, #MeToo applies in many other contexts.

In this event, we explore what workplace harassment looks like in Asia, its many facets, and how cultural perspectives of this vastly diverse region might make addressing certain cases difficult. Lastly, we will be sharing practical tactics to navigate the situation when one is witnessing or faced with workplace harassment.

Do join us as we hear from subject experts in this delicate topic; including a human resource professional and law practitioners hailing from AWARE, Bird & Bird ATMD and Uber. Let’s learn what we can do to respond – in turn reinforcing a safe and conducive work environment for all. Please note that this discussion is off the record.

Brought to you by the Women In Business Committee of the
British Chamber of Commerce Singapore


  • Corinna Lim – Executive Director, AWARE Singapore
  • Goh Seow Hui – Partner, Bird & Bird ATMD
  • Anika Grant – Human Resources Director, APAC and LATAM, UBER

Andrea Edwards, Founder & CEO, The Digital Conversationalist

Mon, January 22, 2018
06:30 PM – 08:30 PM

Barclays Bank PLC,
Singapore Training Room A & B,
Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 2
10 Marina Boulevard #25-01
Singapore 018983

How Will You Handle Your Harveys? Panel Discussion 4 December 2017

How Will You Handle Your Harveys? Panel Discussion 4 December 2017

Managing Harassment in the Workplace

There is a new climate. Employees are speaking up and tolerance for harassment is down. In the face of changing attitudes, companies cannot afford to wait until there is a crisis to put the right policies and practices into place.

Learn from experts on the best practices for creating a safe work environment and managing workplace harassment.

This event will be hosted by Bloomberg, in partnership with AWARE and TSMP Law Corporation who are the sponsors of refreshments. Refreshments will be offered from 6pm.

Note: This session is ‘off-the-record’

Please RSVP here to ensure your spot.

Date: Monday, 4 Dec 2017
Time: 6pm to 8.30pm
Venue: 23 Church Street, 12/F Capital Square Auditorium, Singapore 049481.


Meena Anand

Meena Anand is an experienced global HR professional with strong expertise in Organizational Development, Employee Relations and M&A. Currently she leads the Employee Relations and Conduct functions globally at Standard Chartered. In the past Meena has successfully held both senior generalist and specialist HR roles at Standard Chartered, Barclays and UBS.

Corinna Lim

Corinna Lim is Catalyse Consulting’s Director and AWARE’s Executive Director. Corinna has extensive experience advising and training on workplace harassment. She was involved in research on workplace harassment and advocating for legal protection against workplace harassment. In 2014, she worked with the Ministry of Law on the Protection of Harassment Act. Corinna has provided consultancy to organisations on managing workplace harassment, and has also advised workplace harassment victims on their legal rights. She also founded and ran a successful technology start up, Bizibody Technology, and practised law in Allen & Gledhill, Khattar Wong and Koh Ong & Partners.

Ian Lim

Ian heads the Employment & Labour team at TSMP. His practice covers advisory, transactional and contentious employment work, with a focus on non-competition, dismissal, data privacy, harassment, M&A employee transfers and industrial relations issues. Ian is the lead author for the Singapore chapters of “The Employment Law Review” and “Getting the Deal Through – Labour & Employment”, as well as the Employment chapter of “Law Relating to Specific Contracts in Singapore”. Ian serves as Chairman of the Law Society Civil Practice Committee, and is a Referee of the State Courts Small Claims Tribunals and a Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators.

How Unconscious Bias Affects Mothers Returning to the Workforce

How Unconscious Bias Affects Mothers Returning to the Workforce

Many women find it hard to return to work. Are negative perceptions and unconscious bias hampering women who want to return to work?

Susanna Nickalls, our Director of Catalyse Consulting gives an insight to unconscious bias by sharing why we have biases and why it is important to be more aware of them and talk about them.

By taking the Gender-Career Implicit Association Test, we can understand how quickly we associate female and male terms to family and career. The Implicit Association Test shows that 3 in 4 people have an automatic association of Male with Career and Female with Family.

This shows that there is a need for us to be more aware so that we can overcome the automatic association we make that might hinder women to rejoin the workforce.

This video was aired on June 29, 2017 and you can watch the full episode at: https://video.toggle.sg/en/video/series/talking-point-2017/ep9/517726.

Balancing a Career and Caregiving is no Longer just a Women’s Issue

Balancing a Career and Caregiving is no Longer just a Women’s Issue

This article appeared in TODAY on March 29, 2016.

March is the month to celebrate and discuss women, as organisations centre their events around International Women’s Day. It is always heartening to see companies invested in balancing gender in their workforce and leadership.

Companies that are committed to maintaining and attracting female talent know there is a strong business case for doing so. A company is only as good as its people, and the female talent pool is too rich to miss out on. Furthermore, high turnover rates indicate a waste of investment in recruiting, training and mentoring women.

Many companies and countries have implemented policies to support women’s leadership.

Things that work well include setting targets on women in leadership roles, designing systematic plans to achieve these targets and commitment from senior management.

Firms can also benefit from training that makes staff aware of biases (including unconscious biases) that may limit women’s achievement, together with practices to reduce these unconscious biases.

Nevertheless, progress remains slow. The World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2015 estimates that it will be 118 years before the global gender pay gap closes — putting us four generations away from parity. In 2014, the prediction was 81 years.

What still stands in the way of women’s potential to earn as much as and climb the career ladder like their male counterparts? A key issue, often overlooked, is care.

Even today, women are expected to be the primary caregivers for children. Many leave paid employment to fulfil this role because their workplaces do not make space for caregiving needs. For gender parity to become a reality, companies need to recognise that every worker has caregiving responsibilities, and that these responsibilities — quite rightly — affect men as much as women.


Women face great cultural pressure to be primary caregivers, and often they are. However, this is changing. In a 2014 Harvard Business School (HBS) Study, one-third of 6,500 male millennial HBS graduates expected to split childcare responsibility 50:50 with their partners, compared with 22 per cent of Gen X men and 16 per cent of male baby boomers. Similar findings were reported by Stanford and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

With rising cost of living, most couples are in dual-worker relationships. In Singapore and Hong Kong, it is almost a necessity for both parents to work to ensure a good life for their family, leaving a gap when unpredictable moments of caregiving arise.

Hence, balancing the dual tug of care and career is no longer just a women’s issue. It is also a men’s issue and, ultimately, a work design issue. Our workplaces have yet to fully adapt to a workforce who are all, at the same time, caregivers. Companies must recognise that we do not — and cannot — have the traditional workforce, where the typical worker is a work-obsessed man supported by his full-time, homemaker wife.

Notably, caregiving today also includes caring for aged parents. The 1960s Baby Boom is morphing into an Elder Boom, and this will hit us hard if our workplaces are not prepared.

Although flexiwork schemes exist in most companies, often they are not working. Companies need to ask themselves honestly: How many people are taking advantage of those policies? And how many who have worked flexibly have advanced to the top?

Some managers refuse to let employees work flexibly, prioritising presence over performance. Even when flexiwork is accessible, employees eschew it, fearing the associated stigma of being out of office.

One novel and exciting initiative to erase this stigma is Telstra’s All Roles Flex movement. Its premise is that all roles are flexible, unless a manager can justify otherwise. Flexibility can mean part-time work, different working hours or working from different locations.

Telstra’s All Role Flex policy showed encouraging results. Company-wide female representation had increased, and 30 per cent of new applicants stated that they applied because of the new flexibility. Now, the company sees flexibility as the norm instead of a rarely broached alternative, helping all workers to balance the tensions between care and career. The model has since been adopted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, ANZ Banks and the Australian Securities Exchange.

Many people have children because it can be a deeply rewarding experience. But we need to ensure that everyone — women and men both — has the genuine choice to take this up, without losing access to paid employment. Society should accommodate and support caregiving, instead of penalising this choice. Having a rewarding career, along with a personal life that allows for the satisfactions of loving and caring for others, should be available to all of us, not only the privileged few with access to full-time care support. It is up to all of us to make this happen.

By Corinna Lim, Catalyse Consulting Director

How do Harassment Laws Affect your Company?

How do Harassment Laws Affect your Company?

Protection from Harassment Act

Prior to 2014, there were very few easily identifiable laws on harassment in Singapore. In November 2014, The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) was passed as a landmark legislation, and is now the main body of law protecting people who have become the targets of harassment or stalking, both online and physically.

Under POHA, harassment is described as actions ‘involving threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviours or communications. Such behaviours may be actionable if a) it is meant to cause you harassment, alarm or distress or b) is likely to cause you these feelings and you heard or saw the offending behaviours or words’.

With the recognition of harassment laws under a formal legislation, there is a renewed focus on workplace harassment.

In view of the broadened reach of the Act, it is important that companies ensure that their anti-harassment policies comply with the new legislation.

Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment (the “Advisory”)

After POHA was passed, the Advisory was also issued by a committee comprising government stakeholders, unions, employers and subject matter experts to provide authoritative guidance for employers on addressing workplace harassment.

Although the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment is not technically law, it may have legal implications as it prescribes what companies and their staff should do to address and prevent workplace harassment. This may affect a company’s duty of care to provide its employees with a safe place of work.


As a facet of POHA, the Advisory recommends that employers adopt the following practices:

  1. Develop a harassment prevention policy

Employers should develop a formal policy which prohibits harassment and also ensures recourse in the case of harassment at the workplace. The policy should be developed in consultation with workers in the organisation/the unions (if any)

  1. Provide information and training on workplace harassment

It is important to ensure that harassment is taken seriously at all levels of the organisation. Thus employers are encourage to train their employees, especially the HR, line managers and supervisors to handle harassment cases. Employers can also consider establishing a support group or engaging professionals to provide counselling services and support to affected persons.

  1. Implement reporting and response procedures (grievance handling)

Employers should develop the following procedures, where practicable, to handle any potential workplace harassment issues:

  • Harassment reporting line to ensure timely reporting
  • Investigation procedures to ensure fair treatment of workplace harassment issues
  • Closure to prevent recurrence of incident

Employers should ensure that employees are aware of these procedures, and are able to utilise them easily.

Given that workplaces are rapidly becoming more diverse, cultural differences may lead to different conceptions of what is acceptable workplace behaviour. It is thus critical that companies trains their staff on recognizing what constitutes harassment, who to turn to when a problem arises, and the company’s zero-tolerance policy against harassment.

In our experience we have found that clear policies and procedures on workplace harassment is the key to effective resolutions of harassment incidents, and a strong signal that the company cares about the safety of its employees.