Sabrina Ho, founder and CEO of Half the Sky, is on a mission to change unfair and sexist hiring practices
One of Sabrina Ho’s most vivid childhood memories revolves around a Chinese saying her father liked to repeat to her. It roughly translates to “women hold up half the sky”. Upon reaching adulthood and entering the workforce, however, Ho discovered reality to be a far cry from the idealism expressed in this saying.
Throughout the more than 10 years she spent as an employee in various multinational recruitment firms, Ho regularly encountered sexist hiring practices that went unchecked. Clearly, reality needed a little nudge in the right direction. Ho decided that she was the woman to do it and in October 2019, she founded Half the Sky (HTS), a recruitment platform that aims to connect female professionals with equal opportunity employers.
How much resistance have you encountered in your mission to help organisations understand what being an equal opportunity employer means?
When I set out to establish HTS, I knew it would be a challenge, but I underestimated how difficult it would be. Many companies are under the impression that it is sufficient to simply add an equal opportunity statement to their websites. They treat it like a box-ticking exercise and fail to realise that building a diverse and inclusive workforce is much more than a statement. It’s a state of being.
Being an equal opportunity employer opens the door to more talent, thus solving a talent shortage problem. And while race is an important factor for most companies, issues such as ageism, disabilities and sexual orientation are also issues to consider.
How important is workplace diversity to an organisation’s success today?
There is substantial research showing that a diverse workforce contributes to businesses’ bottom lines, enhances creativity and innovation, and helps companies be more productive. Diversity and inclusion are central to building the workforce of the future and this cannot be done with the ways of yesteryear.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt through setting up HTS?
I often find that women underestimate their potential and fail to dream big. When I first started HTS, I had investors telling me it could expand beyond Singapore’s borders to the US, UK and continental Europe. I was sceptical and wanted to build a solid foundation in Singapore first. Along the way, however, my mindset shifted and I realised that small ideas can grow rapidly in today’s interconnected global marketplace.
Today, HTS helps female jobseekers in 11 countries. I regularly receive emails from women from all over the world telling me how grateful they are for the HTS platform. So I believe we can achieve anything we set our mind to – just dream big!