SINGAPORE: As Singapore continues to develop as a Smart Nation, there is a need to include more women in building a strong core of Singaporeans in all growth sectors such as science and technology.
Second Minister for Home Affairs and Manpower Josephine Teo said this at the launch of the inaugural Women in Technology and Design conference at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on Monday (Jan 15).
While female employment rate in Singapore ranks high globally, Mrs Teo said that pockets of concerns remain.
In the corporate world, women occupy some 30 per cent of the senior executive positions but just 9.9 per cent on the boards of publicly listed companies in Singapore, behind countries whose economies are less developed.
Specifically in the sector of science and technology (S&T), about one in four is a woman and this proportion has stagnated in a decade.
While the number of female IT professionals has grown about 10 per cent since 2011, it is still less than half the growth seen in their male counterparts.
At the local universities, female enrolment in S&T has plateaued at around 3,300 students, with the share of women dipping below 40 per cent.
This, she said, raised two areas of concern.
“The first is that as Singapore develops as a Smart Nation, new industries and career opportunities are opening up for those with specialised skills which often draw on a background in S&T.
"When young women who have the ability to master science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) subjects shy away from these disciplines, it sets them on a course in life that is less likely to benefit from the uplift that technology brings to industries and of course to careers,” Mrs Teo said.
“A second reason to be concerned is that in seeking to build a strong core of Singaporeans in all our growth sectors, it will most certainly be a loss to society if not enough of our women have the relevant training to come on board,” she added.
SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP TO HELP WOMEN IN TECH
The conference also saw the launch of the Women in Technology@SG (WiT@SG) interest group, housed under the Singapore Computer Society.
Made up of 11 women from Citi, IBM, DELL EMC and SUTD, the group was created to increase and advance the participation of leadership of women in technology through the creation of a platform for women.
"I think it's indisputable that women have a lot to add to the industry to contribute to the technology industry whether it be the intellect, creativity, emotional intelligence and many many more," said Meggy Chung, chair of WiT@SG.
"We need to do a lot more work in fostering the next generation of women in technology. We need to keep raising the participation of STEM," she added.
WiT@SG will provide programmes for its members to support and empower women in the industry. Each company represented will also take turns to host quarterly events for networking and industry discussion forums.
“One day perhaps, we won’t need a special conference for women in technology and design or for that matter, any special committee or taskforce to help women advance in any field. The time isn’t here just yet,” Mrs Teo said.