New push to develop young women's interest in tech sector

Singapore Polytechnic student Syakira Sulaiman's passion for infocomm technology was sparked when she learnt coding and how to create 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 in infocomm technology courses at the five polytechnics who are part of an all-female tech committee launched on Friday.

The Cross-Polytechnic Girls in Tech Committee 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 with the five polytechnics.

This paves the way for the committee and the polytechnics - Nanyang, Ngee Ann, Republic, Singapore and Temasek - to work closely on ways to develop girls' interest in careers in the tech sector. This will include talks 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.

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.

"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 said, adding 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, he added. Dr Janil said the Singapore Women in Tech initiative is an important part of moving forward since IMDA launched its partnership with the tech industry in 2019.

A key achievement of the initiative is that 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 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, Minister of State for Communications and Information Tan Kiat How noted how women and the diversity they add to the workplace can benefit businesses. "I think... 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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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2022, with the headline New push to develop young women's interest in tech sector. Subscribe