Empowering young female graduates for the workplace

The third run of the Women’s Professional Development Programme (WPDP) took a group of 40 female undergraduates on a journey of mentorship and experiential learning as they developed innovative ideas to accelerate the career growth of young women. Concluding in March 2023, the eight-week programme saw the undergraduates developing a strong sense of camaraderie through their shared identities as young females seeking to gain critical skills for workplace success. 

Helmed by the NUS Centre for Future-ready Graduates (CFG), the WPDP was first piloted in 2021 as an evening programme with voluntary attendance. In response to an exponential increase in popularity and demand, the WPDP was launched as an academic module – CFG1500 this year, allowing participants to gain course credits towards graduation, while picking up invaluable skills for their future careers.

Held from 18 January to 15 March 2023, this year’s iteration brought together participants across various colleges, faculties and schools, connecting them with a group of 10 established women executives from diverse sectors, organisations and backgrounds.

The mentors included Ms Shin Lee, Chief Executive Officer of Pictet Asset Management; Ms Vanessa Teo, Director of Talent Management (Intercontinental) at AbbVie; Ms Masturah Sha’ari, Co-founder and Director at Maya Gallery; Ms Murshidha Ishak, Product Owner at PebbleRoad; and Ms Joleen Tan, HR Business Partner at Pavilion.

During the programme, the students worked in small groups to take on an experiential group project with their assigned mentor. Using principles of human-centred design, they developed innovative initiatives to address the question “How might talented young women gain career-building opportunities and accelerate earlier in their careers?”  

The students also benefitted from six skills-focused training workshops aimed at deepening their understanding of the unique challenges faced by women in the workplace. These sessions helped them build practical skills such as building a powerful presence, self-advocacy and managing multiple roles in their professional and personal lives.

Their hard work came into fruition at the finale event, where the groups pitched their innovative ideas on how to advance the development of women in the workplace to the mentors. Among the ideas were creating greater opportunities for personal growth, fighting gender bias by reducing unconscious gender bias in recruitment, minimising bias in a company’s culture especially in male-dominated fields, and ensuring that women can access more flexible work arrangements. In response, the mentors provided valuable feedback on their pitches and assisted them in identifying areas of improvement.

“I am deeply grateful that the programme has connected me not just to like-minded peers, but also to wonderful mentors whose every action and careful sharing of their lives, their stories, and their skills have taught me many life skills,” shared Loh An Lin, Year 2 student from the NUS Department of History and NUS College. “This programme has showed me how I can think about navigating the working world as young women; and to not be afraid of the challenges that will come our way as women. One day, I too hope to give back to younger women (and younger men), when I have navigated my way through life.”

Executives who took part in the programme lauded its distinctive approach and called for more of such efforts in the future. “This is a very special mentorship programme specially designed to empower women. Kudos to the NUS CFG team! I think we need efforts more like this to truly embrace diversity and inclusivity, and raise more women leaders of tomorrow,” said Ms Alice Yu Yuebo, Team Lead of Partners & Industry Marketing at NCS Group.


By the NUS Centre for Future-ready Graduates