The first ever Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society took place in Singapore this year between 12 to 14 September 2018. Supported by the Economic Development Board, the event coincides with Singapore’s chairmanship of ASEAN.
Hosted in Singapore, the Forum recognises Asia’s importance in driving the global economy. Asian businesses, institutions and individuals are being transformed by the deeper levels of connectivity with the world. Moreover, the latest technologies are churned and consumed by the huge Asian economy.
Themed “Bridging Worlds for Inclusive Innovations”, the forum brought together more than a thousand leaders from Asia and Europe to engage in a gendered discussion of major social and economic issues. Forum organiser believe that women in Asia have the capacity to produce innovative ideas and display leadership in the corporate world and public affairs. Hence, achieving gender equality for Asia is important in harnessing the region’s maximum economic and technological potential.
At her keynote speech, President Halimah Yacob said, “We must continue to harness technology to improve the lives of women. If we can combine the best of the global technology industry with the ingenuity and resourcefulness of women to solve the challenges posed by the digital divide, we can unlock a colossal wave of human potential and freedom for future generations.”
The President was responding to an alarming report which found that the automation of jobs was more likely to negatively impact women. Instead of treating the disruptive economy with feelings of hostility and distaste, the President advocated harnessing its opportunities for the greater good.
She cited studies of accessibility to technology as the marker of difference in gender inequality. Not only should women have access to the technology devices and software, but they should also be trained to use them. This will significantly improve the education women receives and better their employment opportunities.
Jobs for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Artificial Intelligence should be facilitated. Consequently, the gender gap will be narrowed.
At the same time, technology should be used to improve the lives of women. By combining technology with the “ingenuity and resourcefulness” of women, many problems caused by the digital disruption can be solved. Women can and must play a larger role in businesses, especially startups. The President said that involving women in higher level business decisions is not just an issue of ethics, but also a social and economic one.
Citing a study, the President said that in Asia-Pacific countries, close to $4.5 trillion could be added to the collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) just by improving levels of gender equality. For Singapore, including women will yield a 12% hike in business-as-usual GDP, amount to SGD 26 billion annually in GDP.
Hence more training programs and creating the right pipelines will facilitate the process in which women get to break through the institutional glass ceilings. In a turbulent age, women in positions of leadership will be able to make business decisions which extend beyond the financial bottom line. Women are more inclined toward reinforcing a positive workplace environment and culture. Their creativity and diverse portfolio of talents make giant leaps toward an equitable world.
To the President, this feminine genius is the stuff needed to optimise an economy’s success story.
Fostering an equipped women adds to a larger league future-ready professionals. Harnessing the talent of women can release a floodgate of human potential, and consequently bring about greater freedoms for peoples in the future.