Women can be a source of economic growth and innovative products and services for Singapore, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said yesterday.
Yet, research shows start-ups by women attract less interest from investors, and women tend to have fewer networking opportunities. Women also continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions and on company boards, she said.
There is some way to go to overcome these barriers, she said, calling on women activists to continue their advocacy and help change mindsets so as to bring about greater equality in gender roles.
"We should continue to be the ears and eyes on the ground, to understand the needs and find out where gaps exist... to reach out, engage and build networks with women from all segments, not leaving anyone behind," she said.
Ms Fu was speaking to some 300 members of the People's Action Party Women's Wing, which she chairs, at Hotel Fort Canning.
"Besides making our voices heard, we also need to work hard to transform these calls into tangible action. We can do so by developing sound policy recommendations and working with the government agencies to co-create new policies and initiatives," she said. For example, ways to encourage women entrepreneurship, such as having start-up spaces closer to home and shared service centres for more caregiving options, were suggested in a paper by a group of women MPs last year, she said.
BE IN TOUCH WITH WOMEN'S NEEDS
We should continue to be the ears and eyes on the ground, to understand the needs and find out where gaps exist... to reach out, engage and build networks with women from all segments, not leaving anyone behind.
MINISTER FOR CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH GRACE FU
Ms Fu also highlighted progress made over the past year in areas the Women's Wing had advocated for, such as enhancements to paternity and maternity leave. In April, five women MPs also moved a motion in Parliament to affirm support for Singapore women to fulfil their family and career aspirations.
Yesterday, participants also heard from three entrepreneurs in a panel discussion on how to do well in both career and at home.
They are food e-commerce business Li Da Foods co-founder Rita Zahara, flexi-work platform Mums@Work founder Sher-Li Torrey, and chief executive of consultancy Rohei, Rachel Ong.
Ms Rita said the key is to stay relevant by continual reinvention. She shared how her meal-delivery brand AMGD uses digital marketing, utilises data to curate recipes and is trying to automate production.
Ms Ong advised members to treat others with dignity, as "a good name is better than great riches", and said finding a niche they were passionate about will help people to work together with others and with technology in the future economy.
Mrs Torrey added that a niche does not have to be a big role: People can contribute in a job or as a mother, no matter what they are doing.