Mindset shifts needed to overcome gender stereotypes: White Paper

Age-old stereotypes still exist, and need to be fixed, according to the White Paper on Singapore Women's Development. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - In the workplace, some women continue to face glass ceilings and obstacles due to perceptions that certain jobs should be performed by women and others by men.

At home, there are entrenched views that women are primary caregivers while men are main breadwinners. 

Age-old stereotypes like these still exist, and need to be fixed, according to the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development published on Monday (March 28).

"Fundamental mindset shifts are needed to make the next bound of progress," it said.

It noted that gender stereotypes endure and can prevent both men and women from achieving their full potential.

For example, stereotypes about women's aptitude for certain types of work can contribute to lower female representation in male-dominated occupations which tend to be higher paying, such as in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) careers.

While the percentage of women studying in Stem courses increased from 38 per cent in 2017 to 41 per cent in 2019, only 55 per cent of women graduating with Stem degrees or diplomas enter related careers, compared with 70 per cent of men.

The White Paper outlined several plans to push for a change in mindsets, which include education and community partnership efforts.

For example, the Character and Citizenship Education curriculum in schools now includes discussion on the equity of familial roles as well as gender stereotypes, while institutes of higher learning continue to encourage women to enter Stem fields.

The Government has also been working with community organisations to overcome gender stereotypes.

For example, a video titled Gift To Our Next Generation, done by several community partners with the support of the Ministry of Social and Family Development, aired on free-to-air television and social media channels in December 2021.

The video featured different children reacting to household chores and caregiving duties at home based on their parents' behaviour at home, highlighting the ripple effects parents' behaviour have on their children and the importance of role modelling for future generations.

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As at February 2022, the video had garnered over five million views online and reached 12 per cent of audience aged 15 years and above on free-to-air TV, according to the White Paper.

The paper also said Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Standards Council will develop a new gender strategy in 2022 under the Singapore Standardisation Programme.

The strategy aims to improve gender diversity in the standards community, develop guidance documents to support the development of gender-responsive standards, and raise awareness on the contributions of women in standardisation.

Standards - which cover areas from workplace safety to food hygiene - are meant to ensure Singapore companies maintain consistent quality, build customer trust and access global markets.

Another plan in the White Paper is to dedicate a public garden at Dhoby Ghaut Green to honour and celebrate the pioneering spirit of Singapore women.

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