Today I was pleased to join UWCSEA students and staff at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Women's Conference, which was opened by Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob. In her opening remarks, the President described the progress that has been made in advancing the rights of women in Singapore, including the way in which protections for women have been strengthened and passed into law through the Women’s Charter. Even since the most recent amendments to the Charter in 2016, rapid change in society and technology have created additional challenges to a shared goal of gender equality. Through forums such as today’s event, this has included discussion on systemic change to ensure that equality is an assumed right, and a greater focus on understanding how the role of men might expand to include work, such as caregiving, that has traditionally been viewed as “women’s work”. In turn, this shift in focus would help to create opportunities for women to participate and contribute more fully to other aspects of society, and build more social equity.
The theme of women's economic empowerment is one close to my heart, and not just as the mother of two girls, and with concerns about what they may face as they go out into the world. Before COVID-19 struck, estimates showed that it would take 100 years for women globally to reach parity of opportunity and for gender parity. That has now changed and the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 estimates suggest it has increased by a generation, and is now more like 136 years. The impact of COVID-19 has struck women harder than men in general, with the caring professions particularly impacted, and girls taken out of education on an unprecedented scale.
On International Womens' Day (8 March), I blogged about a vibrant panel discussion earlier that day, featuring three inspiring women taking questions about gender parity and equity. Our students who submitted their questions put the panel to the test, and asked for accountability from the College in addressing these issues. That's one reason we are supporting today's IPS Women’s Conference - to be part of the discussions about common challenges, and finding shared solutions.
This week also marks the start of an internship in my office, bringing together some ideas about how we might engage with a programme I was closely connected to in China, Inspiring the Future - and Inspiring Women in particular, which addresses stereotyping in career choices among young students. We are glad to have Zhuzhu, a recent a graduate from our UWCSEA Class of '21 join us as part of the College's Internship Programme and look forward to seeing the results of her hard work!