Published on 25 November 2023
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good morning to everyone.
1. I am very glad to be here at the inaugural annual symposium of SHE. For this segment, we’ll be giving special thanks to Standard Chartered, because it is with the support of Standard Chartered that SHE is able to run the Sneak Peak programme for girls. I am especially delighted that we have with us today participants of the debut Sneak Peek Programme, organised by SHE with Standard Chartered. I understand that our girls had the rare opportunity of exploring “behind the scenes” at various workplaces, in addition to learning about potential career roles and pathways, and hearing from leaders and role models at these organisations.
SHE’s Sneak Peek Programme
2. A 2023 study by the Institute of Policy Studies showed that more men than women have built, or are building, contacts in areas that they would like to work in . We commonly talk about this as networks. SHE’s Sneak Peek programme addresses this gap by offering their young female participants:
• Learning visits to organisations across different industries, as well as professional and personal development training, as well as
• Opportunities to build networks, gain cultural capital, broaden their horizons, and be inspired about future career possibilities.
The programme also opens doors for those who may not have the same opportunities as others.
3. More importantly, it allows participants to challenge limitations that they or society may have set. For instance, young women will have the opportunity to see for themselves the inner workings of companies, organisations or sectors that have traditionally been male-dominated, and speak to women leaders in these organisations and dispel stereotypes that they may otherwise have had regarding these organisations. Such exposure is critical in bridging the gap between male and female participation in certain sectors and clarifying misconceptions that one might have held.
4. I would like to make special mention of one participant, Nadia, aged 15. I understand that she made a visit to Grab and that it was an eye-opener, as she had not visited big companies before. It helped her to understand the different roles within a technology services company and to consider professions in that industry.
Singaporean women have made tremendous progress
5. As Minister Masagos shared earlier this morning, Singapore has made great strides in women’s development, and we continue to invest in this. Universal education for all boys and girls since the 1960s has uplifted women who did not enjoy equal education opportunities previously. For the past 5 years, the proportion of female university graduates has consistently remained around 50%. At our Institutes of Higher Learning, historically male-dominated STEM subjects have around 4 in 10 female students.
6. Women’s success in schools and universities is an important precursor, because this enables them to also succeed in other areas like the workplace.
• Singapore has one of the highest proportions globally of women in the technology workforce – 41%, compared to the global average of 28% .
• The increase in the proportion of women in leadership positions has also been significant. Women representation on boards of the Top 100 SGX listed companies increased three-fold from 7.5% in 2014 to 22.7% currently . Women representation on boards stand at 32 and 30% for Statutory Boards and the Top 100 IPCs respectively.
7. We continue to drive change through programmes that further the advancement of Singaporean women. Some examples include:
• SG Women in Tech, which is the movement, driven by the Infocomm Media Development Authority. It provides networking and mentorship opportunities to attract, inspire, and motivate girls and women to pursue tech careers. With the support of community and industry partners, this movement has reached over 123,000 individuals.
• Programmes by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, such as Women’s Register and BoardAgender, also provide networking and mentorship opportunities to empower women to pursue their aspirations and to reach their fullest potential.
More can be done to shift mindsets
8. Even as Singaporean women have achieved much over the years, we know that more can be done. The Government is committed to building a society where every Singaporean has full and equal opportunity to flourish and achieve their aspirations. This morning’s speakers have shared how our mindsets and attitudes must progress further. It is only with mindset change that we can truly make fundamental shifts in our approaches to tackling issues around gender equality. We need to continue working together as a society. We need to have a whole-of-society effort to address gender stereotypes, for example, about women’s aptitude for fields like STEM, and for leadership, which can prevent girls and women from achieving their fullest potential. Corporates and community partners, families and individuals can and must play their part.
9. SHE’s Sneak Peek programme is a great example of how different stakeholders can work together to shift mindsets. It is a testament that a partnership approach can deliver effective programmes and drive meaningful change. This is also in line with the main tenets of the Forward SG exercise where we can do something for one another to build a shared future together.
10. I thank SHE for launching this very meaningful initiative and convening so many partners to do this important work. I would like to also hold Standard Chartered up as a role model and hope that more corporates can be like Standard Chartered to partner and work with us to overcome gender stereotypes. I am particularly delighted to learn that many male corporate leaders have also volunteered their time to support this programme. We can already see that mindsets are shifting, but we must continue to do more. As Minister pointed out earlier this morning, results from the Reykjavík Index for Leadership show that Singaporean youths appear more open-minded towards women’s suitability for leadership than youths in other countries. We know that changing norms takes time, and we must continue to work together to shape a fairer, more inclusive society.
11. To the young women in our audience today, especially our Sneak Peek participants, please continue to challenge yourself and pursue your dreams. Be a role model to others and inspire those around you to rise above limiting mindsets. Fulfil your potential, we are here to support you to achieve your aspirations. Never underestimate what you can achieve and how you can inspire others. Thank you very much.