Women on gender equality: Breaking the bias

Stellar female alumnae shared their experiences on fostering gender equality and diversity in the workplace at the recent WoW: In Conversation panel discussion, organised by NUS Alumni Relations.

Whether it is new mothers returning to the workforce, or young female graduates negotiating their first pay cheques, it is undeniable that women at various stages of their lives face different professional challenges. Yet even as companies are openly committing to supporting women and addressing gender segregation, equality between males and females remains an important work-in-progress in many workplace settings.

Like-minded members of the NUS community attended a virtual panel discussion on 9 Mar led by Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Science ’98) titled “Shaping a Gender-Equal Workforce of Tomorrow”. The panel of speakers comprised Mdm Zulaiha Yusuf (Arts and Social Sciences ’85), Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Yayasan MENDAKI, and Social Service Fellow; Ms Anuprita Bhomick (Business ’03), Head of Customer Experience, Google; and Ms Annie An Dongmei (Computing ’15), Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services.

In a power-packed 90-minute conversation and Q&A session, panellists shared riveting anecdotes from their childhoods, insights from their workplaces -- most importantly, valuable lessons gathered from years of navigating the professional workforce. No proverbial stones were left unturned as the panellists dished it all out.

Women supporting women

Both Mdm Zulaiha and Ms Anuprita benefited from growing up in an environment of strong, supportive women, who in turn made them the female role models they are today. Ms Anuprita’s mother, in particular, made sure that she excelled in her studies and career despite the traditional family dynamics she was brought up in, where men were the sole breadwinners and women the primary caregivers at home.

“My mother pushed me into studying engineering and even took care of my children after they were born so I did not have to compromise my career,” said Ms Anuprita. She shared further that her mother’s strong support had unknowingly inspired her own daughter, who is currently pursuing a Masters in Neuroscience at Cambridge, to carve out a path as an academic.

As for Mdm Zulaiha, she shows her support for other women in her capacity as the Deputy CEO of Yayasan MENDAKI. There, among other illustrious achievements in her decades-long career, she spearheads the organisation’s W@W Programme, which enables women to restart their careers, build their life skills, re-integrate into the workforce, and remain relevant with professional development and mentorship. This is especially important for the Malay/Muslim community, which sees a majority of females retreating into full-time caregiving roles after starting their families.

Celebrating diversity

For Ms An, who started her career in progressive tech companies, her career was thankfully well-supported by her colleagues and husband, even when she returned to work as a new mother. While she continues to find a new worklife equilibrium, with her youngest child being just six months old, Ms An shared that there are many circles and events supporting women in tech and non-tech roles, such as Women of the Future (WOF) Awards Southeast Asia, TechGirls, and Cloud Seeders. Within her company, there are also support groups for women and mothers – particularly those returning to the workforce after having children. This has led her to be especially vocal about enabling younger coders and sharing her experience with young professionals as a mentor.

The hope, then, is that more companies embrace diversity in the workforce, and invest in women as an asset. More importantly, women should learn to advocate for their own needs. As Ms An and Ms Anuprita expressed eloquently, they believe that women are born leaders, emphasising the importance of investing in oneself and embracing the lifelong learning spirit throughout one’s career.


By NUS Office of Alumni Relations