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How SNCF’s women EXCO members view gender empowerment this International Women’s Day
2024-03-02 02:32:00

How SNCF’s women EXCO members view gender empowerment this International Women’s Day

From left to right: Evelyn Siow, Raen Lim, Fenny Halim are some of SNCF's EXCO members.

By Sng Ler Jun

Flipping through the archives of the Co-operator Newsletter, one would notice that stories or anecdotes on women empowerment are aplenty. International Women’s Day was marked for a first time in 1975 by the United Nations, and it soon became a momentous occasion to celebrate the success of women and commemorate their fight for equal rights and freedom.

This International Women’s Day, we reached out to notable leaders within the co-operative ecosystem: Evelyn Siow (SeaCare), Raen Lim (Splunk Inc), and Fenny Halim (NTUC FairPrice) on their thoughts of this movement and how they take the lead to make the change in the organisation they serve.

How do you perceive the evolving landscape of gender equality in the co-operative ecosystem/corporate world?

Evelyn Siow: There has been a gradual but encouraging shift towards greater inclusivity and recognition of the multifaceted roles women play both at home and in the workplace. As a dedicated professional, mother, wife and daughter, I've come to recognise and value the remarkable multitasking abilities that women often possess. And we continuously strive to fulfil each role to the best of our abilities.

Raen Lim: It has certainly improved, and I believe it is a great time to be a female with the increased emphasis on gender diversity in enlightened organisations.

Fenny Halim: It is heartening to see greater inclusivity and representation on women today, and I most certainly can see that in NTUC FairPrice Co-operative.

What key lessons have you learned about leveraging your unique perspective as a woman leader to drive forward this agenda within your organisation?

Evelyn Siow: This skill set, honed through managing various responsibilities at home and work simultaneously, equips us with a valuable asset in leadership roles. Within SeaCare, we encourage flexibility, understanding, and empathy towards the challenges faced by working mothers has not only enhanced gender equality but also enriched our overall organisational culture, driving innovation and collaboration. More importantly, it's essential to create a supportive environment where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their best, regardless of gender.

Raen Lim: As a woman leader, it is important to be deliberate in the way we recruit, develop and promote people where we make sure we include diversity candidates, develop women specific leadership programmes and give ample exposure to our female colleagues. To me, it doesn't matter as much how you get a seat at the table, but more importantly, how you make a positive impact once you are seated.

Fenny Halim: Firstly, it’s to learn to embrace the challenges that come our way; there are opportunities in them that allow us to continuously learn and develop our capabilities. Secondly, we need to be both present and real; listening intently, understanding objectively, and communicating well can help us better support the rest. Finally, I have learnt to put people first and celebrate every achievement they get. That’s how I think I could create a small ripple that would make waves.

Mentorship is often cited as instrumental in career development. Can you share a pivotal moment or experience where mentorship or support from another woman significantly influenced your professional growth?

Raen Lim: I had the opportunity to be part of a professional mentoring programme where I was mentored by a very accomplished female for six months. The experience allowed me to reflect on my professional journey and gave me clarity about my pursuits for the next 10 years.

Fenny Halim: I have worked with diverse and accomplished leaders,  both men and women, some of whom served as valuable mentors to me. And yes, I echo that mentorship is instrumental in offering different perspectives and ideas. My mentors have shaped my professional and personal growth. One mentor wisely said: “Being nice to people is free'', a philosophy that has guided my approach to life ever since.

As we celebrate International Women's Day, (a) what initiatives or actions do you believe are most effective in advancing the representation and empowerment of women at the workplace, and (b) how can both individuals and organisations contribute to this collective effort?

Evelyn Siow: From implementing inclusive hiring practices to providing equal opportunities for career advancement, initiatives focusing on advancing the representation and empowerment of women at the workplace are crucial. Additionally, promoting gender diversity training, mentorship programmes, and networking opportunities can further enhance women's professional development and visibility within organisations.

Organisations have a responsibility to prioritise diversity and inclusion in their policies, practices, and leadership initiatives. Implementing family-friendly policies such as flexible work arrangements and parental leave, and fostering a culture of respect and inclusion where all employees feel valued and empowered to succeed. We can create a more equitable and inclusive workplace where every woman has the opportunity to thrive.

Raen Lim: Part of the answer has been mentioned earlier on, but what I would like to add is that we as women need to strike a better balance between family and work, and hence the spouses play a big part in being more active at home in taking on house chores or family duties so as to give working mothers more space to realise their potential in the workplace.

Fenny Halim: For us to continue to embrace diversity and inclusion. I believe empowerment comes through listening and accepting different viewpoints, encouraging participation from all levels in the organisation and giving real time feedback to motivate improvements to achieve greater heights as an individual and as an organisation.



Interview responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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SNCF is the apex body of Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, and secretariat of the Central Co-operative Fund (CCF). Formed in 1980 with the aim of championing Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, the apex body represents majority of co-operative members in Singapore through its affiliated co-operatives.