A recent conference inspired the next generation of women to be the leaders of tomorrow.
The National Young Women Leaders’ Day Conference on March 13, organized by non-profit organization Halogen Foundation Singapore, saw a good turnout of students from around the region—Hong Kong, Christmas Island—and Singapore, which was represented by Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. The conference was held to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, an annual event celebrated globally to commemorate women’s achievements in society.
Guest-of-honor, Indranee Rajah, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and MP for Tanjong Pagar Group Constituency, graced the event. The very picture of a woman who has power and poise, she emphasized to her young audience the basic attributes of leadership: “You need to have ability, knowledge, integrity, and you need to have a clear vision—as leaders—because people are going to follow you.”
Other speakers included Dr. Seet Ai Mee, President of HCA Hospice Care, Margaret Court, Australia’s most celebrated female tennis player, and Josephine Teo, Chairwoman of The Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, and Assistant Secretary-General of the National Trade Union Congress.
Seet cited examples from her own life with “vision” being the central theme. She delivered her session in an animated, grandmotherly manner that put the conference participants at ease. Her inspiration was her aunt who chose the path of education and pursued it, and eventually became the first female principal of the Methodist Girls School in Malacca.
Focus, discipline and the determination to achieve something in life was Court’s message. “When you have a determination to achieve something, somebody will see that in your life and help you.” Court herself was given a tennis racket at the age of nine, when someone observed her using old wooden paling taken off a fence to hit a ball.
Teo’s resounding song of inspiration was that of being a person of influence. “Leadership is not about airy-fairy theories. It is the willingness to take action while others are still talking.”
Leadership-in-action examples she cited included Denise Phua, founder and supervisor of Pathlight School for children with Autism and related disorders; Lim Yen Ching, principal of Northlight School; Olivia Lum, Group CEO for Hyflux, and Penny Low, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC who champions social entrepreneurship. She hailed these women as trailblazers in their fields, filling gaps and meeting needs in society for the betterment of the community. “Leadership is really about service,” said Teo.
A video featuring aid in Haiti set to Michael Jackson’s “We Are The World”, took the meeting into a discussion with four volunteers of the CityCare medical team for Haiti, who shared their first-hand experiences on ground zero, prompting questions from the floor. From the exchange, it was clear that it is the connection with people who have been through extraordinary circumstances that instils civic-mindedness in young people.
Martin Tan, co-founder of Halogen Foundation Singapore, an organization that promotes leadership qualities in youth, observed that the success of the conference was the apparent energy that exuded from the students.
“Every young person deserves a chance to be nurtured as a leader. Youth are the social change agents in our society.”