In conjunction with International Women's Day, NBS organised a thought-provoking forum on 29 March, shedding light on the persisting challenges faced by women and the essence of embracing equity.
Distinguished Host and Panellists
NBS Dean Prof Christina Soh played host to the panel discussion, featuring Mr. Alvin Tan, Minister of State from the Ministries of Trade and Industry, & Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth. The other esteemed panellists were alumni Ms. Anubhuti Gupta, Senior Principal Consultant at Mercer, Singapore; and Ms. Chloe Lim, Director of Global Business Marketing APAC at Meta.
From left to right: Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of Culture, Community
and Youth; Prof Christina Soh, Dean of NBS; Ms Chloe Lim, Director, Global Business Marketing APAC, Meta; and
Ms Anubhuti Gupta, Senior Principal Consultant, Mercer, Singapore
The discussion began by defining equity as the provision of tailored resources that align with the unique circumstances of women. The engaging conversation delved into the contemporary challenges faced by women, strategies to address these hurdles, and the essential requisites for women to achieve success.
Tackling Deep-seated Biases
Although considerable progress has been made in addressing overt biases, the panel agreed that unconscious biases persist due to deeply ingrained gender norms and societal expectations. Cultural assumptions, such as the misconception that girls perform poorly in engineering or technology, continue to influence recruitment, promotion, and education processes. The burden of traditional childcare responsibilities, reinforced by social norms, further hinders women, especially when combined with structural biases like rigid working hours. The panel emphasised that the pandemic showcased the feasibility of flexible work arrangements without compromising economic viability.
Empowering Through Flexibility
Granting women the flexibility to define their work dynamics empowers them to strive for greater success. A pivotal shift in mindset is imperative, focusing on the output of women's work rather than the process of delivery.
Involving Men in the Journey
Empowering men to support women is a two-way street. Mr. Tan highlighted government initiatives to enhance support for men, emphasising equal roles and responsibilities in childcare through extended paternity and infant care leaves.
He said: The need for flexibility cuts both ways and men need to be empowered to support women. Mr Tan explained how the government is providing more support in this aspect: “It is important for men to play a role in journeying alongside women, supporting women and also acknowledging the role that women have in our lives. By increasing paternity leave and unpaid infant care leave for fathers, the government is sending a clear message that men have an equal share and equal responsibility to care for and nurture children.”
Ms Gupta lauded these moves and recounted her experience in Scandinavia where it was socially acceptable for fathers to be homemakers. She voiced the need for society to be more accepting of men who decide to focus on their families rather than their careers. She said: “We tend to look down on men who take a backseat in their career to support their women. There is definitely some stigma attached to it which prevents them from doing so. We can start today to say it's fine for men to be a stay-home dad. It's fine for men to let their wife shine. That will go a long way because then the men will not feel pressurised and stigmatised that they have to be the breadwinner in the family.”
Mr Alvin Tan and Prof Christina Soh during the panel discussion at NBS International Women’s Day Forum 2023
Recognising and Celebrating Diversity
Acknowledging the importance of the female voice and perspective, the panel stressed the need for more advocacy for deserving women to break through the glass ceiling in corporate hierarchies. Additionally, they urged recognition of women in various domains, not just in the corporate world, underscoring the value of diversity in roles and achievements.
Moving Closer to Equity
Education and skills enhancement are foundational elements in empowering women and promoting equity. Establishing an inclusive learning ecosystem that enables skill development for women from diverse backgrounds is a critical stride towards a more equitable Singapore. Tracking progress against best practices and fostering continuous improvement are essential aspects of this journey. Ms Lim said: “When we come together, there is collective power as well. Together, we can inspire, we can drive change, we can engage as a group. Even in our moments when we have the imposter syndrome, we should recognise the individual power, the power of you, and harness the power of us collectively as a community.”
In conclusion, the panellists encouraged women to step up by enhancing their skills and raising their voices, striving for a gender-equal world free from bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. The forum underscored the importance of collective efforts and a paradigm shift in societal perspectives to achieve true equity.
Mr Alvin Tan, Prof Christina Soh, Ms Chloe Lim, and Ms Anubhuti Gupta with attendees at the NBS International Women’s Day Forum