New push to develop and retain more women in tech sector

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary at the launch of an all-girls tech committee. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

SINGAPORE - Singapore Polytechnic student Syakira Sulaiman's passion for infocomm technology was first sparked when she learnt coding and creating applications for mobile phones in secondary school.

That led to an interest in website design, which she started to pursue seriously in polytechnic.

Now, the second-year student is keen to help other girls gain a foothold in the tech sector, and discover that there are many different roles on offer.

She said: "I feel there is this misconception there are only technical roles in the industry. But, in reality, there are different opportunities that girls can tap like Web designers, user researchers, and a lot of designing for applications."

Ms Syakira, 21, is one of more than 70 girls from five polytechnics who are part of a new all-girls tech committee launched on Friday (May 13).

The five polytechnics are Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, and Temasek Polytechnic.

The committee, called Cross-Polytechnic Girls in Tech Committee, is made up of girls studying infocomm technology courses in the five polytechnics, and will help to be a community of support for girls in tech.

It aims to reach more than 700 girls each year.

On Friday, an initiative called the Singapore Women in Tech - driven by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) - inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the five polys.

The MOU will pave the way for the committee and the polys to work closely on ways to develop, retain and deepen girls' interest in careers in the tech sector.

This will include talks, workshops, competitions, and mentorship opportunities by participating firms such as Accenture, Cisco, and PayPal.

The girls will also be able to participate in this year's annual Girls in Tech Week in October.

They will visit companies and attend workshops by women tech leaders on their career experiences.

Minister of State for Communications and Information Tan Kiat How (standing, left) and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary (centre) witnessing the MOU signing between Singapore Women in Tech and the five polys. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, in a speech at the event held in the one-north innovation district, said women have played a significant role in advancing technology in Singapore.

Dr Janil said: "We are today one of the top tech talent hubs in the world. Part of that is because of the progress that we have made in getting women into the workforce and education."

He added that about four in 10 students today in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or Stem, in the local institutes of higher learning are girls.

"And 41 per cent of Singapore's tech professionals are women. It's one of the highest in the world, and well above the global average of about 28 per cent." 

But more needs to be done, said Dr Janil, although Singapore has come a long way in advancing opportunities for women and girls in tech.

He added that the Singapore Women In Tech initiative is an important part of going forward since IMDA launched its partnership with the tech industry in 2019.

One of the key achievements of the initiative is it has reached more than 120,000 people through efforts such as coaching and hackathons by tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and PayPal.

Dr Janil said the Government will continue to push for inclusivity and diversity in tech, and work with industry players and educational institutions to that end.

He also called on more industry leaders to join the more than 50 firms that have pledged to create a conducive environment to attract, retain and develop women in tech, and support efforts to nurture young talent.

In a panel discussion at the event, Minister of State for Communications and Information Tan Kiat How touched on how women and the diversity they add to the workplace can benefit businesses.

He said: "I think ladies and women bring different dimensions to the work that we do, different perspectives, and with diversity, teams are stronger and more creative."

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