#IWD2023: Achieve gender equity by acknowledging the roles women play

Koh Yan Ping, CEO of Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), outlines strategies to promote gender equity in Singapore.
By: | March 8, 2023

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day 2023 today, HRM Asia shines the spotlight on the inspirational women who have broken barriers and achieved incredible success in the workplace. In our special IWD 2023 coverage, we spoke to women leaders who shared their thoughts and advice on how women can succeed in the workplace, and the role they can play towards creating a more equitable and inclusive world for everyone.

In this exclusive IWD feature, HRM Asia speaks with Koh Yan Ping, CEO of SCWO as she discusses the challenges and opportunities for women in the workplace, and her advice for aspiring female leaders.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your responsibilities at SCWO

As CEO of the SCWO, I provide strategic direction and lead the organisation to fulfil our vision and mission to achieve Equal Space, Equal Voice and Equal Worth for women in Singapore. As the national coordinating body of women’s organisations in Singapore since 1980, SCWO has more than 60 member organisations, representing over 600,000 women. My job includes formulating and implementing strategic plans to unite our member organisations through collaborations and engagements to reduce and eliminate gender inequalities.

How has SCWO embraced gender equality and address challenges faced by female employees?

Based on our ideals of Equal Space, Equal Voice, Equal Worth, SCWO has created a range of programmes and services to support women. For instance, our flagship initiative, the BoardAgender Mentorship Programme, champions equal representation of women in leadership, providing aspiring women directors with the opportunity to develop as directors and understand their value to boards. We also have the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame, which recognises achievements and contributions of outstanding women, and Project Awesome that brings their stories to school children. SCWO also offers direct services like Star Shelter, Maintenance Support Central and SHECARES@SCWO to assist women in distress due to family violence, online harms, and financial difficulties.

How can technology play a role in creating equal opportunities for women in the workplace?

The proliferation of technology can help to narrow the gender pay gap which stood at 14.4% in 2020 for full-time female employees aged 25 to 54. A contributing factor to the pay gap between men and women is occupational segregation, where more women are in lower-paid occupations such as clerical support service and sales. Hence, introducing technology to redesign these jobs largely held by women can elevate the value of the job and increase the pay.

What inspires you to support and empower women to take up leadership roles?

I am thankful to be in a generation where there are many role models of Singaporean women who have made great contributions and attained significant achievements. An amazing woman of inspiration for me is Halimah Yacob, the first female President of Singapore. As an inductee in the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame, she had achieved many firsts throughout her career. I was fortunate to have known her and worked with her in the early part of my career in the labour movement.

With #EmbraceEquity being the theme of IWD this year, what is your message to organisations for creating inclusive work cultures?

The theme of IWD this year focuses on gender equity, which is the means to achieve gender equality. It emphasises on collective efforts to reach an equal outcome for men and women while recognising that everyone is different and have different needs. Applying this to workplaces, it means that organisations and employers should acknowledge that women have dual roles at home and at work which can affect their career progression. It is due to their propensity to play the primary role in caregiving that has impacted their progression, and not because they are less capable or committed than men. 

International Women’s Day Features:

Empower all individuals to embrace equity – Gillian Tan, COO, Jebsen & Jessen Packaging

Creating a gender-inclusive workplace – Lee Minjoo, Head of Marketing, Deliveroo Singapore

Inclusion should be a mindset for everyone – Evelyn Tay, VP of Comms, Sustainability and Public Affairs, foodpanda

Uncovering bias the first step for inclusive workplaces – Alyssa Wang, Human Resources Director, Asia-Pacific, ADM

Technology holds the key to achieving gender equity – Aisha Islam, Senior Vice President and Head of Customer Solutions Centre, Mastercard

Ensuring equity and respect for all employees – Shylaja Bhat, Director HR Business Partner – Platform Foundation, HERE Technologies

Embracing equity and equality as cultural cornerstones – Patsy Ng, Vice President for Human Resources – Asia-Pacific, Hilton