International Women's Day

Take ownership of your success: Surgeon

Dr Soin advises parents against practising gender discrimination at home so as to reduce the gender gap in the workplace.
Dr Soin advises parents against practising gender discrimination at home so as to reduce the gender gap in the workplace.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Singaporean women need to be more ambitious and not be afraid of owning their own success, says surgeon Kanwaljit Soin.

Dr Soin, one of the founding members of women's organisation Aware, noted that many women often let the burden of care for their family peg them back in career development. "I didn't let anything get in my way towards becoming a surgeon - not marriage, not pregnancies. I never thought of giving up," said Dr Soin, who was also the first female nominated MP here in 1992.

The 75-year-old orthopaedic and hand surgeon - who runs a private practice at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre - is a living example of a person pursuing goals tenaciously.

She sat for her medical examinations while pregnant - not once, but twice - and built a career while raising three children at a time when help was not so readily available.

Dr Soin told The Straits Times that it was not easy but having a supportive spouse helped. "My husband knows I like my career and sometimes jokes that I am not a housewife. I said: 'Of course I am not. I am married to you, not the house.'"

While gender diversity and equality at the work place have largely improved over the years, she noted that women still shoulder more caregiving responsibilities.

These duties often set women back from aspiring to go to the top of their careers or lead to them leaving the workforce completely.

"The burden of care has to be shared more equally... If you want to get married, choose a man who is a real partner and a co-parent. Not just a wage earner," Dr Soin said.

However, the gender gap could be unconsciously propagated way before a woman hits the workforce, starting from her home.

Dr Soin cites examples of households where a daughter frequently ends up doing more chores than the son. Parents, she said, should be more aware of gender discrimination at home and refrain from practising it.

Her career tips to millennial women: "Do something that you are passionate about that enables you to make a difference, and do it with integrity. Be resilient, and if you meet difficulties, be optimistic."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Take ownership of your success: Surgeon'. Print Edition | Subscribe