Women Taking On Lead Roles In Male-Dominated Professions

Women make up about 45 per cent of the Republic’s workforce, and are increasingly taking on leading roles in traditionally male dominated professions.

Channel NewsAsia spoke to two women public officers who are leaders in their field.


Ms Ellena Quek used to head Jurong Fire Station which is home to about 140 officers. The 32-year-old was the third female officer to command a fire station in Singapore. She is now posted to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Major who joined the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in 2005 said her gender was never an issue when it came to fighting fires.

“I think at the fire site or the incident site, a lot of the stereotypes that we have don’t matter anymore, because the fire doesn’t care whether you are male or female or whatever qualifications you have,” Major Quek said.

Major Quek and her fellow woman officers make up 14 per cent of the SCDF’s uniformed and civilian personnel.

The SCDF said it started recruiting female officers as early as the 1980s. In the early years, female officers were only trained in administrative work. But the SCDF said more female officers have taken on higher appointments such as Fire Station Commander, Division Commander or Director of a Staff Department.

Major Quek said female officers bring with them a different dynamic.

“Female officers have an advantage, in relationship-building and also in our sensitivity to situations, especially when there’s trauma involved. A lot of the things that we see on a daily basis – they are not what you would see outside in your everyday life,” she said.


Superintendent Jean Chiang – who works for the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) – shares her sentiments. She is the second-in-command of a pre-release centre for offenders.

Superintendent Chiang has steadily climbed up the ranks, behind the iron bars and cold concrete walls.

“I must share that it is a challenge to be in front of male inmates, who are tall, big, burly. Many of them have tattoos, and I have to stand in front of hundreds of them, to address them in big groups at times. So definitely, that was something new to me and something that I have to brace myself for to stand up in front of them and to look confident and authoritative,” she revealed.

The SPS said it is seeing more women applying to join the service through the years. Just like Superintendent Chiang, many of them have become leaders in their fields.

“The basic principle of why SPS deploys women officers in the first place is that the organisation recognises us as competent, capable and thus, we do not want to portray ourselves as the weaker sex but rather fully competent and capable in managing male inmates as well,” she said.

To ensure the safety of its women officers, there are strict guidelines on the roles of female staff, particularly in male institutions. For example, women officers do not enter the toilet or bathing facilities of inmates, when they are in use.

They also do not manage high-risk inmates like sexual offenders and those who are violent. They must also be accompanied by male officers in areas where inmates congregate.

Why are women taking on these jobs despite the obvious challenges?

Superintendent Chiang said: “When we see that that we are able to help them achieve some things, we see that we are able to motivate them to change. I think that is very, very satisfying.”

Major Quek noted: “Really, gender doesn’t matter. It is how you prove yourself and what you do that matters.”

As these women prove – that is what matters most when it comes to serving Singapore.


Source: www.channelnewsasia.com

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