They made up 41% of the Tech workforce in Singapore, surpassing the global average of 28%. There has also been an increase in the number of women pursuing University degrees in STEM. In the recent Singapore 100 Women in Tech 2021 (SG100WIT) List by Singapore Computer Society, three of our engineering professors were recognised in “Women in Tech’ category and two undergraduate engineering students were recognised in an all new “Girls in Tech” category. The 2021 Singapore 100 Women in Tech List is an initiative by InfoComm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Singapore Computer Society (SCS) and SG Women in Tech that recognises and celebrates women who have been inspiring their communities and making significant contributions to the tech industry. Join us as we celebrate their achievement and find out more about their thoughts on Females in TECH.
What are your thoughts on females in TECH?
Prof Wang Rong: I believe there is no difference between genders in terms of cognitive intelligence. A female can perform just as well as a male counterpart in TECH as long as she does not limit herself.
Assoc Prof Yeong Wai Yee: We are excellent dream chaser and trailblazer. In terms of the progress, I think there are invisible limitations in the tech industries, as the number of females in tech is not high enough. We need more voices, more tangible measures, and more female decision makers in TECH domain.
Peh Yu Yun: It is becoming common to see more female in TECH thanks to the outreach efforts by various organisations that normalise and promote a journey in tech for females. Most industries are gender-neutral, and the tech industry is one of them, so apart from personal choice, there isn’t a rigid barrier stopping females from venturing into the tech industry. It is also heartening to see an increasing gender diversity, as diversity can potentially bring about innovation and new ideas.
Surabhi: There exists a gender gap in the tech industry in terms of representation and pay, and statistics across the globe support this statement. Multiple organisations and communities have acknowledged this gap and are working hard to bridge it. In conversations I had with professionals on this topic, we felt that our implicit bias could be a possible reason for the gender gap. One possible way I can think of to tackle the implicit bias is through education. Personally, with my computer science degree, I have started to see how I can use technology for social good. With a proper education on inclusive and humane technology, we can equip the younger generation with the knowledge and skills, irrespective of gender. We need to work on improving the image young girls have of STEM and educate them about the impact they can bring with a career in STEM to motivate them to join STEM.
Any advice for female students who are keen to enter STEM?
Prof Wang Rong: Be confident of yourself. Stay positive and do not let any gender stereotype hold you back.
Prof Yeong Wai Yee: Be confident and believe in yourself. If there are naysayers, don’t listen to them. You can create your own definition in STEM.
Peh Yu Yun: If you have an open mind and are keen to be in STEM, what’s stopping you? There are always seniors willing to help you if you are willing to help yourself! Enjoy the journey and while there may inevitably be ups and downs, believe that you’ll come out stronger and a better version of yourself.
Surabhi: From afar, STEM can seem daunting. However, don’t be deterred about the stereotypical view of STEM being “too difficult”. The harsh truth is that no working industry is straight-forward. Tech — and I cannot stress this enough — is such a DYNAMIC field. In this age of automation, there are always new technologies and trends that surface. STEM gives a window of opportunity for you to gain new access to new skills and lifelong learning. Don’t be afraid to dip your toes in the water and explore, ask questions, and figure out what interests you and what you are truly passionate about in the field. Everything that you will learn from the various aspects of this field, will stick with you for life — especially the analytical, critical, and soft skills which are applicable to any industry globally. What you can do as a first step is to attend events covering topics about STEM, and perhaps even reach out to university students like me and hear about their experiences from their major of study.
What is one stereotype that you wish to break about females in STEM/ Female engineers?
Prof Wang Rong: Females in STEM/ Female Engineers can also be elegant and have an artistic side to them. For instance, I love dancing during the weekend. Dancing is my hobby and a great form of exercise, too.
Prof Yeong Wai Yee: That females cannot do well in STEM or females are not analytical enough. These are perception and not the truth.
Peh Yu Yun: That females in STEM/Female engineers or people in general are nerdy/boring and have little/no interests apart from STEM/have no life. While there may be people who dedicate the entirety of their time to studying in their university life, there are equally as many, if not more, people who balance their academic work and their interests! For example, I love music and crocheting, and whenever I’m tired of doing my academic work, I’ll turn to these avenues for some fun! We are all multi-dimensional beings, and even though we study STEM, it doesn’t necessarily mean our whole lives revolve around it.
Surabhi: STEM fields are often perceived as a male-dominated industry. There has been data that shows teachers and parents often underestimate the potential girls may have in this field, as early as their preschool days. Girls are pushed towards English and the arts, while boys are pushed towards math and science. I think the community has become too comfortable in a backwards way of thinking, where everybody, even females themselves, are deterring themselves from joining the industry as they assume it to be “too difficult” or “nerdy” or “boring”. But I think it is high time we open our eyes and look around.
It’s true, girls might not have a realistic image of STEM and what the field might entail due to a lack of female role models in the industry. But a lack does not equate to none. Females need to be proactive and confident in their ability to provide value. By networking and reaching out to professional women leaders, girls can learn about their experiences, stories and even identify their career aspirations.
As the industry changes and modernises to become more inclusive and diverse, females also need to step up and create an opportunity for themselves. With the continuous support of an empowering mentor, along with your passion, you can find your place in STEM.
What has been your biggest takeaway from being actively involved in OneArena?
Peh Yu Yun: As OneArena is a College event, it has been an eye-opening experience working with people from different engineering schools. Trying to organise an event during the pandemic is quite tough, especially with the fluid situation and restrictions, but learning to deal with sudden changes and being adaptable is something valuable that I’ve learnt out of this. A huge shoutout to my fellow committee members for sticking through the tough times while juggling academic work at the same time!
What has been your biggest takeaway from being actively involved in Women In Tech@NTU?
Surabhi: Women In Tech @ NTU’s vision is to allow for a platform where our fellow female peers, who are passionate in tech and want to get into tech regardless of their major, get the opportunities, and get to connect with like-minded students, forging a collaborative environment of sharing and learning. Started in August 2019, this community has now grown to 812 followers on LinkedIn.
During the circuit breaker in 2020 (as an interest group) the team organised a virtual Product Management mentorship program in collaboration with Rakuten involving 35 mentees and 7 mentors. Additionally, the team also collaborated with AWS Education Programs to cover virtual weekly sessions on topics ranging from Cloud 101, Software Development, Data Management, Machine Learning and Cyber Security, gaining a participation of over 1,500 individuals. Since August 2020, as an NTU-accredited club, the team held 10 virtual events covering topics such as Product Management, Machine Learning, UIUX and more, with 15 industry partners, reaching around 500 participants. Now, WIT@NTU is reaching its third year running as a student-led women in tech initiative for undergraduates.
WIT@NTU has shaped me in three ways: as an individual, as a leader, and as someone who is part of a community. In terms of personal growth, WIT@NTU has changed my view of myself. I used to perceive myself as someone who is very reserved, especially in a professional setting. In my first ever networking event, in a room full of experienced working professionals, I stood in the corner and was extremely shy to start a conversation. Today, I stand as a more confident individual who is not afraid to approach others or start a conversation. I have realised the importance of networking and I am much more self-assured about my ability to add value to a discussion or just simply ask my peers about their stories and experiences.
It is extremely important to have a vision and mission for the cause, and it is even more important to know how to lead your team towards that vision. As a co-founder I also understood what type of leader I wanted to be, specifically what kind of coaching style works for me and my team. I had an opportunity to be a part of the NTU Student Leadership Development Program, which truly left me more empowered as a leader. By adopting a coaching leadership approach, I was able to encourage my team to not only approach challenges in a collaborative manner but also take ownership of their contributions and take on small initiatives and projects on their own. I think this mentorship-style leadership has worked out beautifully for WIT@NTU, so much so that the current team is also using this approach to drive the initiative forward.
“It has been an absolute dream and a huge honour to be recognised and nominated as one of the top 18 students of SG 100 Women In Tech List 2021 under the “Girls in Tech” category. But more so, to be listed amongst such powerful female entrepreneurs and change-makers. Accomplishing such a goal is not a one-woman job! You need to surround yourself with people who will guide you, inspire you, motivate you, and challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone. Thank you to my growing WIT@NTU for your passion and drive supporting this initiative along with me. Appreciation to all the mentors and industry partners for their continuous support for us. A huge thank you to Singapore Computer Society, SG Women in Tech, and IMDA for creating such a platform that not only inspires young girls and women to pursue a career in the tech sector, but also celebrates women leaders who have made a great change in the industry. “