Women under-represented in semiconductor industry: Gan Siow Huang

Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang said industry leaders here recognise this gap and are working to grow talent in the industry. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The semiconductor industry has seen robust growth globally but women remain under-represented in the male-dominated field, especially in leadership and technical roles, said Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang on Thursday (March 10).

She added that industry leaders in Singapore recognise this gap and are working to grow talent in the industry, launching initiatives such as a job portal.

"Semiconductor and electronics is traditionally a male-dominated industry.

"Despite this, more women have joined this industry over the years, and we're seeing some rising to leadership positions," said Ms Gan at the Semiconductor Women's Forum.

Speaking at the event organised by the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA), Ms Gan noted that the global semiconductor industry saw robust growth last year.

Sales rose by 26 per cent as chip manufacturers ramped up production to meet strong demand amid chip shortages.

She said the semiconductor industry in Singapore expanded by 14 per cent in 2021 and is expected to post healthy growth this year.

Meanwhile, the industry is working to attract mid-career job seekers and help grow the local talent pipeline.

In line with this are tripartite efforts to implement flexible work arrangements to attract women to the industry.

"Women often shoulder a larger part of caregiving responsibilities at home.

"I believe efforts to support employees in better balancing their family and personal responsibilities will enable more women to enter, remain and progress in the workforce," Ms Gan said at the event held at the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel, which this year incorporates the International Women's Day #BreaktheBias pledge campaign.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Ms Julie Koh, strategic programmes director at SSIA, described her experience when she joined the industry in the 1990s.

Ms Julie Koh, strategic programmes director at the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association, said there were few women engineers in the semiconductor industry when she joined in the 1990s. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The 52-year-old said that back then, there were few women engineers in the semiconductor industry.

But this has changed, with more women entering the field and doing well.

She noted that the proportion of women job seekers entering the industry from 2019 to 2021 via the career conversion programme organised by statutory board Workforce Singapore and SSIA was about 24 per cent, up from about 17 per cent from 2016 to 2018.

Ms Chua Khai Shuen, 22, will join the industry after she graduates from the National University of Singapore at the end of this month.

She is currently working as a manufacturing engineer intern at semiconductor firm Applied Materials, and will join the company full time after graduation.

Ms Chua Khai Shuen, 22, will join the industry after she graduates from the National University of Singapore at the end of this month. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The final-year mechanical engineering student said: "In school, I really avoided electrical work and coding because I so strongly believed that my poor grades in those modules meant I wasn't capable in these areas."

The stint at Applied Materials exposed her to practical projects that involve such skills.

"It was finally time to face my fear and it ended up as something that was not unapproachable, that I could handle slowly and very surely with the help of people around me (at work).

"I wasn't actually incompetent in those things - I just lacked the confidence and experience," she said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.