Technology can help narrow gender gap, President Halimah Yacob says at Women's Forum Singapore

President Halimah Yacob said that the disruptive economy could be viewed in a positive light. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Technology can be a catalyst for narrowing the gender gap, President Halimah Yacob said at the opening of the Women's Forum Singapore on Wednesday (Sept 12) at Raffles City Convention Centre.

The three-day forum, part of an international platform which looks at major social and economic issues from a gender perspective, aims to foster women's leadership for social progress and economic impact across the world.

President Halimah told those gathered for the opening that the disruptive economy could be viewed in a positive light.

"We have, today, a world that is disrupted. Disruption has accelerated changes and challenges to the economy," said President Halimah, noting that a World Economic Forum study found that the automation of jobs was more likely to impact women negatively.

But she said research has also shown that access to and, more importantly, the ability to understand and use technologies could have a positive impact on women's education and employment opportunities.

"By providing skills training and creating the right pipelines, businesses can allow women to be in leadership positions," she said.

Bridging the gender gap through innovation was one of the recurring themes of the forum, which attracted more than 700 delegates and 100 speakers from various sectors and industries in Asean, Europe, China, India and other nations.

Over the next three days until Friday, the Women's Forum Singapore will hold more than 20 sessions to discuss topics including artificial intelligence, climate change, women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, smart cities and responsible finance.

On its opening day, panellists discussed emerging technological tools such as data analytics shaping the region, the growth of billion dollar start-ups in Asia and how business education could prepare women for leadership roles.

The head of Training and Development at The Straits Times, Ms Lydia Lim, who was also moderator of a discussion, said that business education could enhance leadership.

"Business schools can make a difference by having courses that empower students to lead and to be effective in their interactions with others. That is especially important for those students, whether women or men, who lack confidence in this area," she said.

The Straits Times is a media partner of the Women's Forum Singapore.

A 2018 study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that Asia-Pacific economies could add $4.5 trillion to their collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by advancing gender equality. It said Singapore could add some $26 billion to its annual GDP by doing so.

"Enabling women to take positions of leadership will help lift families, communities and economies," said Mr Kamal Ahmad, the founder of Asian University for Women, who was another speaker at the forum.

Ms Clara Gaymard, executive president of the Women's Forum for the Economy & Society said that surveys had proven that countries and companies which applied equality and diversity were more successful.

"But the most important change diversity brings to the world is innovation," she added.

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