Inaugural SHE Annual Symposium: SHE social experiment reveals strong gender stereotyping remains despite belief there is gender equality in Singapore


Inaugural SHE Annual Symposium:
SHE social experiment reveals strong gender stereotyping remains despite belief there is gender equality in Singapore

  • - Online Harms public education miniseries launched at the Symposium
  • - Top participants of SHE’s Sneak Peek recognised

SINGAPORE, 25 NOVEMBER 2023 – SG Her Empowerment (SHE) held today its inaugural annual symposium, themed “Changing Mindsets, Changing Lives”, to discuss the importance of shifting mindsets on gender norms, and its role in achieving gender equality.

During the event, international and local panellists discussed different possible solutions to gender stereotyping, in tandem with SHE’s new thought-provoking study on gender mindsets in Singapore. A public education series on online harms by G.H.Y Culture & Media, in partnership with SHE, was also launched.

The 200-strong audience and 17 panellists comprised academics, corporates, civil society organisations, and youths. Panellists include Patrick Lee, Cluster CEO, Singapore and ASEAN Markets, Standard Chartered, Dr June Goh, Immediate Past President of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), Anneke Adema, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Singapore and Brunei, Dr Safarov Elgun Firdovsi oglu, Member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Professor Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania US and a member of CEDAW, and representatives from Girls’ Brigade, Meta, Microsoft, National Healthcare Group, Verian, and Wunderman Thompson.

The event was graced by Guest of Honour Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development, Second Minister for Health & Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, and special guests Ms Sim Ann, SHE Special Adviser and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Development; and Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Stefanie Yuen Thio, Chairperson, SHE, said: “Gender equality to benefit girls, boys, women, and men is central to our mission at SHE. We believe that real change begins with honest conversations, data-informed strategies, and partnerships with corporates, civil society organisations, and the Government. I am very pleased that our inaugural annual symposium does exactly that and gives us an opportunity to celebrate SHE’s work with our partners.”

SHE Social Experiment on Gender Mindsets in Singapore

SHE is committed to driving the gender equality conversation forward, using Singapore specific data. Overall findings of SHE’s study showed a critical mismatch between perception and reality. While seven in 10 respondents believed that women and men were treated fairly and equally in Singapore, the study revealed that traditional gender stereotypes still shaped their mindsets and behaviour. If left unchecked, such stereotypes can result in bias and affect fair and equal treatment at home and in the workplace, and even online.

Findings showcasing that gender stereotypes are more ingrained in Singapore than we may realise, include the following:

a) Women were significantly associated with personal characteristics of being compassionate (76 percent) and organised (68 percent), but were also seen as gossipy (80 percent) and indecisive (67 percent).

b) Conversely, men were significantly associated with being athletic (82 percent), analytical (66 percent) and competent (60 percent), but were also seen as frivolous (55 percent).

c) Women remain heavily relied upon at home. In a hypothetical scenario, women were assigned more household tasks than men (seven out of 12 tasks). They were also overwhelmingly preferred for food-related tasks, for example, feeding children (F: 82 percent, M: 18 percent), cooking (F: 80 percent, M: 20 percent), meal planning (F: 77 percent, M: 23 percent), and grocery shopping (F: 62 percent, M: 38 percent). Comparatively, men tend to be assigned tasks related to transportation.

d) Career success is tied to male-associated traits. 46 percent of respondents believed an “ambitious and assertive” individual would get promoted over a “caring and nurturing” one. When asked to choose if the “ambitious and assertive” individual was female or male, 68 percent identified the individual as male.

e) Gender stereotypes and their consequences play out online, just as they do in real life. When asked to pick a "smart and strong" occupation for a gaming avatar, seven in 10 respondents selected occupations historically associated with males, such as software developer, scientist, pilot and doctor.

Encouragingly, however, eight in 10 respondents agreed that more efforts were needed to address gender bias and inequality in Singapore. This suggests that Singaporeans are ready to tackle these important issues and want more to be done.

This study, conducted online with 406 Singaporean residents aged 18 and above, uncovered insights into Singaporeans’ current mindsets on gender norms and
stereotypes, and how these affect our daily experiences in the workplace, home, and even online. Data was collected using the Kantar Profiles Audience Network. The study incorporated the use of a series of hypothetical scenarios and Implicit Association Testing (IAT), a widely used research tool designed to examine beliefs people may not be conscious of or may hesitate to share publicly.

The study report is enclosed at Annex A.

Simran Toor, Chief Executive Officer, SHE, said: “As SHE’s study shows, traditional gender stereotypes remain entrenched and can significantly impact our daily lives, causing inequalities and unfairness. SHE intends to continue driving the equality conversation forward by engaging in more Singapore-based research, and by focussing on outreach and education to effect the positive mindset changes needed to build a more fair and equal society.”

Launch of Public Education Miniseries on Online Harms – ‘Uninvited Fame’

Produced by G.H.Y Culture & Media in collaboration with SHE, the four-episode miniseries ‘Uninvited Fame’ explores the real-life impacts of online harms such as image-based sexual abuse, doxxing, body shaming, and falsehoods. The miniseries features local talent such as actor Tay Ping Hui. While based on fictional stories, such online harms cases are also seen by SHECARES@SCWO, Singapore’s first support centre for targets of online harms, launched by SHE in January 2023, in collaboration with the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO). Episodes will be released weekly at SHE’s YouTube Channel. The series is rated NC-16.

Ms Sim Ann, SHE Special Adviser and Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Development, launched the miniseries at the Symposium.

Recognition of Top Sneak Peek Participants

Launched in April 2023 in collaboration with Standard Chartered, SHE’s Sneak Peek programme provides underprivileged girls aged 15-21 the opportunity to gain exposure and cultural capital beyond their immediate environment, through half-day placements hosted by various organisations in Singapore.

In 2023 pilot run of Sneak Peek, more than 200 girls signed up for 18 learning visits and six training sessions on personal and professional skills. These were hosted by 17 organisations across various sectors such as banking, tourism, technology, social and public sector, real estate, health, entertainment, and fashion.

Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development also presented certificates of achievements to top participants who attended the most visits of the pilot programme, at the Symposium.

Mr Patrick Lee, Cluster CEO, Singapore and ASEAN Markets, Standard Chartered, said: “We are deeply committed to uplifting participation and fostering a fair and inclusive culture where women can learn, earn and grow. The Sneak Peek programme, in partnership with SHE, gives us the opportunity to make real impact in empowering young women to dream big and exposing them to various career opportunities. We are glad to have hosted some of these young women at Standard Chartered and to have played a direct role in opening their eyes to the many career possibilities banking holds for them.”

“SHE Sneak Peek was a big step out of my comfort zone. I came into the programme alone and came out with new like-minded friends who inspire me to aim high and achieve big. My biggest takeaway is the empowerment and encouragement I received from the women I met in every industry SHE Sneak Peek brought us to. For me, the programme has made "Woman" synonymous with strength, confidence, and fortitude.” – Participant, Quinzel, 20 years old.

“SHE’s Sneak Peek programme has offered our students a glimpse into the world beyond school. The students get to select from a wide range of partners to learn more about what they could pursue. They also get the opportunity to visit workplaces that they may not normally have access to, which is exciting for them too.”- Participating School, CHIJ Secondary