Workplaces are dominated by men, be it abroad or right here at home in Singapore.

In Singapore, reports census data taken by MOM, the workforce is formed by 55% men and 45% women, and out of this 45%, only a minority are working in categories: “Legislator, Senior, Officials and Managers”, “Professionals”, “Craftsmen and Related Trade Workers”, “Plant and Machine Operators and Assemblies”, and “Others”.

The key categories of concern here (made more stark since education has become so ubiquitous) are “Legislator, Senior, Officials and Managers” and “Professionals”, being that only 34% and 41% of the respective categories are composed of working women.”

I suppose there is a myriad of reasons (something which is definitely worth exploring in future articles) as to why the percentages are skewed towards the men, but one reason often cited to be the cause of it is women’s inability and/or lack of interest in negotiating. And supporting this one reason are the many researched studies that have repeatedly shown that men, for the most part, are earning higher wages or receiving better benefits or getting promotions, over women because they are more willing to negotiate some of these studies argue that endocrine factors favour men, relative to women, as they produce more testosterone which is said to promote such competitive behaviours.

Related: Modern Women’s Dilemma: Asking For Help Is NOT A Sin


But what most studies share is that by and large, women have been socialised from a very young age, and are accepted and encouraged by society to acquire qualities that are considered feminine. Such qualities are: to be communal in spirit (as opposed to that of self-interest), docility, humility, grace, modesty (there are just so many adjectives, but you get the picture).

So, when it seems like a good idea to adopt qualities synonymous with the male sex in an effort to self-promote yourself to be equal your male peers, the impression, as found in these studies, left by such women have been consider deviants, as their newly adopted attributes, conflicts with social perceptions, resulting in them being often seen as unfeminine, domineering, pushy. And with it, women are made to pay the social costs- dropped from consideration, losing a job opportunity, or losing the respect of your co-workers or worse yet, your superiors, or tarnish your reputation.


So while it is unfortunate that women are placed in such an unfair position (men are mostly immune to this kind of judgement), it is just about choosing the right words and conveying the right attitude- after all, value of any sort, even the value of feminine traits, is in the eye of the beholder; it can either work for you or against you, depending on how it is received.

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In keeping a distance from being seen as a gold digger (in some instances), use what Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) used in her negotiations with Facebook: “think personally, act communally”. Reconstructed, it means to establish empathy with the person sitting across from the table from you by way of showcasing your strengths to have a direct relation to the challenges that would accompany a job/project/promotion.

This way, your “bragging” will appear less like bragging as you, gradually in their eyes, become an almost indispensable resource with the abilities fitting for the job and beyond.

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And also if possible, bring to their attention in a subtle manner that you negotiating is a strength that will benefit the company in the near future, so it will look less like you are greedy (generally, again from credible sources, it is frowned upon to be asking for more, especially in the case of money). Essentially, it’s: I scratch your back, you scratch mine.

When in such bleak times, look not down at your sex as a disadvantage because when you look up you see that women are slowly gaining ground in the corporate world as leaders and shapers of their respective industries that were once male dominated, to name a few: Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo’s CEO), Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo!), Merkel Angela (Chancellor of Germany); they are living proof that women can excel in traditionally male-oriented industries.


In any case, if the word negotiation frightens you, think of it as one Forbes writer suggests A conversation towards mutual understanding. But first, know your worth.

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C.E.O @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen). Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).