As we draw closer to 50/50 Day I wanted to share my story of how I discovered the stereotypes around gender and my personal thoughts on gender equality.

My mother and my aunts taught me that everything in life should be equal. What the boys did, the girls did too. My siblings (an elder sister and younger brother) and I attended the same martial arts classes. We all had household chores. My sister swept the floor, I mopped it, and my brother cleaned the windows.

I thought this was the way the world worked until I went to school, when I had a rude awakening. In Singapore, students in pre-teen years are required to participate in two non-academic activities. I chose gardening and volleyball, both traditionally considered favourites with girls, but not boys.

When my friends found out (especially the male ones), they made fun of me and called me names. I was shocked at first, but replied that these are what I love doing and to move aside if they could not encourage me. But I eventually bowed to peer pressure and ended up joining the boy scouts, becoming one of a handful of students to take on a third non-academic activity.

Looking back, I regret nothing. I was the only male student in the gardening club, but I loved my bonsai plants and trimming the shrubs on the school grounds. I excelled at volleyball and continued with it into my teens, where my school became the national under-16 champions for the sport. 

I was probably a little ahead of my time when it came to breaking gender stereotypes. Today, there is more fluidity in what gender means, but a great deal of work remains to be done for gender equality, especially in the working world. As recently as 19 April, history was made in Washington DC in the US when Senator Tammy Duckworth was the first senator to give birth in office, and the first to bring her baby onto the senate floor for a vote. [1] 

Going back to Singapore, the numbers aren’t encouraging:

  1. Women make up under 10% of the boards of publicly listed companies in Singapore. [2]
  2. About 30% of senior executive positions in Singapore are held by women. [3]
  3. The percentage is lower in science and technology, where just one in four workers is female. [4]
  4. There are three women in every 10 professionals in the Singapore tech industry. [5]

In my professional life, I have worked with women who told me they were afraid of becoming mothers because they think it would affect their career growth. They feared they might not have a job when they returned from their maternity leave and that they would have to rebuild their careers from scratch.

It is definitely time for change. We should not judge people by their gender, beliefs or the colour of their skin, but on their ability, on merit. That’s why I joined April Six, where we believe strongly in looking at a person’s capabilities when it comes to work opportunities.

April Six is walking the talk as one of the partners for 50/50 Day on 26 April. We are celebrating 50/50 Day and the greater #GettingTo5050 movement globally, including in Singapore. If you are interested in finding out about our 50/50 Day events and being part of the journey towards a more gender-balanced world, do visit http://info.aprilsix.com/50-50day-2018-apac to find out more.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2018/apr/20/senator-tammy-duckworth-makes-history-by-bringing-her-baby-to-senate-floor-vote-video

[2] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/more-women-needed-in-science-technology-sectors-josephine-teo-9861416

[3] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/more-women-needed-in-science-technology-sectors-josephine-teo-9861416

[4] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/more-women-needed-in-science-technology-sectors-josephine-teo-9861416

[5] http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/brunch/tech-no-wo-mans-land