Singapore’s first annual HeForShe Impact Awards were announced last week — find out who’s making a real difference to promote gender equality in the community, and what you can do to help!
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the first HeForShe Impact Awards, hosted by the Singapore Committee for UN Women at OneFarrer Resort & Spa. The day was an all-out celebration of both people and companies in Singapore who are doing their part to promote gender equality and other diversity initiatives in the community and beyond.
When we helped call out for award nominations back in February, we talked about the different categories, including the lighthearted – but nonetheless important – “Husband of the Year” award, which nonetheless recognizes the influential role that partners play in championing the rights and empowerment of women.
The winner, Bastian van Halder, was nominated by his wife for leaving his job to support her career move to Singapore, along with pulling his weight at home while helping to raise their children.
“The shortlisted candidates and winners at today’s awards are the leaders in establishing an equal and just world for women and girls,” said President of the Singapore Committee for UN Women, Trina Liang-Lin. “We are proud and inspired by the work they have done and continue to do.”
The event kicked off with a “conversation” between gender equality power couple Michael and Betsy Zink – he’s head of ASEAN at Citibank, she’s a childbirth educator, doula, and breastfeeding counselor – which I found to be one of the most enlightening aspects of the day. Mr. Zink talked about his wife’s activism and how the example she sets for their daughters has impacted his own actions in terms of hiring practices and diversity awareness at Citi. It was refreshing – and encouraging – to hear such an enlightened perspective from someone in a position of power in a notoriously masculine and testosterone-driven industry.
Both were emphatic about the impact the actions of one individual can have on many; Mr. Zink in acknowledging that changing the attitudes and practices of a major financial institution like Citi starts with decisionmakers at the top (still overwhelmingly male), Ms. Zink in discussing how privileged she’s been to witness the change in attitudes amongst the families of young, single mothers that she’s helped counsel at Dayspring Residential Treatment Centre.
If only everyone were so enlightened! A recent survey conducted by the Singapore Committee for UN Women confirmed that local attitudes still generally believe that women’s place is in the home, along with a general acceptance of the fact that women often earn significantly less money for performing the same jobs as men.
In light of this sobering information, it was great to hear about the award winner in the HeForShe@Work category, Schneider Electric, which has done so much to implement policies and strategies promoting gender diversity and inclusion, from building nursing rooms, to implementing flexible working hours, to creating family-friendly maternity and paternity leave policies and much, much more.
Two other individual award winners, Matthew Driver of MasterCard and Dora Liu of Barclays, also earned accolades for encouraging diversity and inclusion within their companies, while community activist Jolovan Wham of the wonderful migrant worker aid organization HOME was named “HeForShe Everyday Hero” for everything he’s done to empower women and men in Singapore who might not otherwise have a voice.
All in all it was an uplifting day, though everyone was quick to admit we’ve got a long way to go toward achieving gender equality, particularly here in Singapore (I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of nominees were either multi-national corporations or foreigners). But the breadth of the awards was a good reminder that gender equality absolutely starts at home – from sharing domestic tasks, to setting an example for our children in how we might emphasize the importance of some roles over others – but MUST be reinforced in the workplace by changing both policies, and our own attitudes. Let’s do this, mamas!
To find out more about HeForShe and what you and your partner can do to promote gender equality, click here mama!