Updated: May 29
With technology development and commercialisation spearheading our way, women in the current time are more empowered to push ceilings. Ms. Andrea Chong, Fashion and Lifestyle Influencer, Dr. Viveka Kalidasan, Technology Development and Commercialization Lead for Translational Biophotonics Lab, Institute of Bioengineering and Bioimaging (IBB) at A*STAR, MOS Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Education and Manpower, Ms. Trina Liang, Director at Sidra Capital, and Ms. Patricia Quek, Managing Director (Sector Head, Singapore, Malaysia, & GFIM) at UBS, came together to discuss the actions we can take to break the bias for a more inclusive and equitable society.
As MOS Gan says, “there’s no such thing as a ceiling”. Patricia also believes that the key to achieving gender equity is to believe that women and men can be equals and can contribute equally. To Trina, women should speak whenever we have an opportunity to, and women’s voices belong in places where decisions are made.
One tip from Trina is to speak up succinctly, with conviction and always be energetically passionate.
MOS Gan also added that it tends to be quick for people to see how the women fare, especially in a male-dominated industry.
Societal norm on ‘Family structures’
What about at home and in the nuclear family units? What is challenging for working mothers, caregivers, or generally the gender roles women play at home?
As a start, Andrea shared that children tend to have a stronger and natural affinity with mothers. This forces mothers to have to find a balance. One of the tips Andrea shared was that women have to recognize that they can’t have the best of both worlds.
Gender bias is not always tipped when children come into the picture and can arise even when there are just two in the household. Viveka often tackles that by quickly addressing any imbalance in the gender roles played at home. Given her experiences growing up, it was very natural for Viveka to be sensitive about the gender roles each partner played at home. She shared that “men also want to be proud of their wives and daughters too, just like they want to be proud of their mothers”. Women are empowered to play a part in working towards a nurturing environment at home.
When faced with difficult situations, how do women prove their worth?
In dealing with workplace bias or stereotypes, Patricia highlighted that we all tend to have unconscious bias. People in leadership positions have to be aware of it. With an expectation that conflicts will arise, women can break the unconscious bias by playing to our strengths and anticipate conflict by communicating effectively to address them.
Viveka echoes the strong view that, “Actions speak louder than words.''. As she reflected on her past experience, she shared how despite the odds, she was able to deliver and it was recognized by the industry because of what she achieved. This is echoed by Trina, who suggested that we should measure whatever we have succeeded, outperformed, and showcased the strengths of women. This includes the ability to multitask and understand ecosystems at a deeper level.
Patricia painted a very common picture for us to consider - When women are being passed up for promotion. In view of the emotions that would be built up during the discussion, Patricia encouraged women to be strategic to consider how we can approach the conversation and to prepare touchpoints prior to the meeting. This will be very helpful as we navigate our own spheres of influence.
How do we get men to respect the voices of women?
According to Trina, a concerted effort can change the opinion of men. She shared that the mindset shift will flow through and pave the way for women in the next generation. With a wider purpose and a strong conviction, the power of women coming together can be very inspiring. She also cited the example of YWLC, which has also come a long way. We can use that voice to grow the community.
Patricia acknowledged that in achieving work-life harmony, some parts of your career may take a lot more from you. Therefore, you’ll have to adjust it within yourself. In her life experiences, Patricia shared that in those times when she travelled for work while her children were sick, she had to believe that her support system was there to support her and that everything will work out for the better. MOS Gan chimed in by also saying that there’s no right or wrong in the choices women make, and all women should be respected for their choices.
In the face of that maternal instinct to run to the family, Patricia also encouraged women not to drop out of the race. She reminds everyone in the room that each of us will have struggles, and it is the mental strength that will carry you.
In conclusion, women today are empowered to break the bias and rise above and beyond in our various spheres of influence. Ms. Andrea Chong, Dr. Viveka Kalidasan, MOS Gan Siow Huang, Ms. Trina Liang, and Ms. Patricia Quek shared how we can play to our strengths and speak whenever we have an opportunity. Women’s voices can drive decisions making. As Sheryl Sandberg says in her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, “I hope you find true meaning, contentment, and passion in your life. I hope you navigate the difficult times and come out with greater strength and resolve. I hope you find whatever balance you seek with your eyes wide open. And I hope that you - yes, you - have the ambition to lean into your career and run the world. Because the world needs you to change it.”
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Moderator: Vivian Lim
Author: Philline Cheng