As part of our series of 22 stories under the overarching theme of #ChooseToChallenge, the team at Human Resources Online reached out to about 70 leaders (women and men - because we believe men play a part too) to ask "What is one action you are taking at work, and at home, to challenge the existing gender stereotypes?"

In this 22nd story in our series, leaders from Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), Epson Singapore, Foursquare APAC, HP, SABIC, Schneider Electric, Singapore Maritime Foundation, and VIRTUE, share the following:

  • Recognising the strengths of multitaskers, at home and at work.
  • Vocalising and raising awareness for the equality of abilities in the workplace.
  • Creating opportunities for the next generation of women leaders to challenge the gender stereotypes in the tech industry.
  • Actively mentoring younger women colleagues to approach everything with a growth mindset.
  • Offering jobs and tasks based on competencies and 'best fit' and not by gender.
  • Ensuring all team members get opportunities for growth and development.
  • Leading initiatives aimed at dispelling misconceptions relating to the industry and providing support to the workforce through mentoring.
  • Shifting to a genderless mindset to approach work without preconceived notions or bias.

Catherine Loh, CEO, Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS)

Last year, as we shifted to remote working, philanthropy proved itself an ‘essential service’. So, while CFS was rising to the challenge of a surge in community needs, our own workplace was also adapting. We did this by focusing on the big picture.

With 2021 declared as the year of celebrating Singaporean women, it is an opportunity to recognise the strengths of multitaskers – at home and in the workplace.

So, think of it as a superpower next time you squeeze in a load of laundry, a question on a PSLE revision paper or a chat with an isolated elderly relative in between Zoom calls.

Tan May Lin, Director, Sales Division and Regional Brand & Communications, Epson Singapore

As a woman working in the fast-paced technology industry, I approach my role as an opportunity to motivate and mentor others, especially my female colleagues and peers who are juggling multiple roles.

To me, it is imperative to vocalise and raise awareness for the equality of our abilities in the workplace although it is always easier to stay silent to prevent any tension.

I’m of the opinion that it’s good to speak up and offer constructive comments as this is one of the ways to catalyse change and hopefully break more glass ceilings in our day and age.

Aditi Kohli, Managing Director, Foursquare APAC

At Foursquare, we are proud to be advocates of gender diversity, and we continue to develop this culture through various inclusion programmes as well as our hiring practices across our global workforce. At home, I also try to tackle stereotypes by setting examples for my teenager that women can thrive at home and the workplace.

As a female leader myself, I’m a firm believer in the “lift as you climb” philosophy. I have been fortunate enough to benefit from several mentors who have done the same for me, and I hope to continue sending the elevator back down to create more opportunities for the next generation of women leaders to challenge these gender stereotypes in the tech industry.

Jamie Neo, Director of Engineering, Global at HP

Early in my engineering career, a male colleague said pointedly at a meeting that women are not suited for STEM careers because we don’t have the necessary creativity and ingenuity. I was stunned at the time but I learned the best way to challenge that view was to speak up, stand up for myself and take charge, while advocating for fellow female colleagues and being visible in the organisation.

I went for every new role that was offered to me and volunteered for some that were not, but that would help me grow. When given the challenge to bring innovation and new thinking into our manufacturing lines, I led a team to research and incorporate Big Data, Analytics, Robotics, 3D Printing, into our manufacturing line. This resulted in greatly increased productivity, efficiency, and quality.

I am thankful for the strong support and mentorship I have received from my colleagues and mentors. They are passionate, dedicated and always excited about what we do.

From growing professionally by taking up new roles, to becoming a more compelling storyteller as a leader, I actively mentor younger female colleagues to approach everything with a growth mindset so that they too, have the tools to choose to challenge.

Lee Min Yin, Director, HR Business Partner, Specialties Fulfillment & Marketing, Global, SABIC

While there has been headway made in progressing gender equality both in offices and at homes, more can be done to challenge prevailing stereotypes.

At SABIC, I take pride in the fact that we offer jobs based on competencies and ‘best’ fit through a strict review process. There is no differential in salaries based on gender. Likewise, the same principle applies in my home. Household chores as a family are structured based on likes, dislikes and capabilities, not gender.

Ultimately, I believe that change lies in the hands of every individual. Every step we take in our day-to-day lives can help pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse future.

Rahul Mehta, Vice President, Power Products Division, Schneider Electric

As a father to a newborn and with my wife returning to work, I am grateful that Schneider Electric has progressive family-friendly and diversity policies in place. I can work from home or take time off to support my family instead of having my wife do it all by herself.

I encourage gender equality and diversity by ensuring that I provide all team members opportunities for growth and development.

I pay special attention to the development of female team members, who currently comprise 30% of my team. They help bring fresh perspectives in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Two of my sales leaders are female and both are an integral part of the team and drive the business growth.

Tan Beng Tee, Executive Director, Singapore Maritime Foundation

Although maritime is perceived to be a male-dominated industry, there are many inspiring stories of women who have led successful maritime careers – with more coming on board.

Gender diversity is a topic that’s close to my heart, and I’ve participated in events such as those organised by the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association to highlight the contributions of women to maritime. I am glad to continue these efforts with the Singapore Maritime Foundation.

SMF has led many initiatives aimed at dispelling misconceptions relating to the industry and provided support to the workforce through mentoring – which I believe is key to building up a strong talent pool.

It is important that companies develop gender-inclusive workplaces and practices to bring out the best in their workforce and meet the demands of today’s fast-changing business landscape.

Hui Wen Tow, Head of Strategy, APAC at VIRTUE

As we progress conversations around gender equality, I am choosing to shift to a genderless mindset instead. This helps me to approach the work we do without preconceived notions or bias and consciously choosing to speak to who we are at the core, as humans.

At Virtue, we believe that the agent of change is in all of us, so we try to instill this mindset into our work ethos – translating that at home and in personal life is easier once you dare to challenge the status quo.

Photos / provided

First row, L-R: Catherine Loh, Tan May Lin, Aditi Kohli, and Jamie Neo. Second row, L-R: Lee Min Yin, Rahul Mehta, Tan Beng Tee, Hui Wen Tow.

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