Gender Summit Singapore 2019
Celebrating Singapore’s first Gender Summit Asia-Pacific, Aug 2019
Written by Maanasa Ravikumar, Member of SgWIS
The Gender Summit is a global initiative with a mission to advance gender equality in science and the adoption of gender perspectives in research content and processes. Founded by Dr. Elizabeth Politzer (Director, Portia Ltd., UK) in 2011, this platform aims to make gender diversity and equality in research and innovation the norm, and to embed gender as a primary dimension of research quality. Inspired by Dr. Politzer’s vision, Dr. Vandana Ramachandran (Director of Research & Academic Affairs at SERI and Co-Founder of SgWIS) and Dr. Lakshmi Ramachandran (Research Programme Manager at Duke-NUS and Member of SgWIS) toiled with the idea of bringing the Summit to Singapore since 2017. Finally, in June 2019, we at SgWIS had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Politzer to Singapore and got the ball rolling with Dr. Vandana and Dr. Lakshmi at the helm! We were joined by a number of other women in science organisations to form an inimitable group of 24 volunteers that undertook the gargantuan task of making the Summit a reality.
In Dr. Lakshmi’s words, it was highly pertinent to host the Summit in Singapore for 3 key reasons: To bring pockets of women in science in Singapore together on a global platform, to create awareness on real challenges faced by women in science on a forum attended by policy makers in order to bridge the gap between grassroots and the policy level, and finally, to provide Singapore with eye-opening perspectives on the impact of sex/gender in research and innovation outcomes. With sheer grit and a clear mission in mind, Gender Summit Asia-Pacific, the 16th Global Edition (GS16) materialized for the first time in Singapore on 28th-29th August 2019. True to its purpose, the Summit, thematized as “Diversity and Gender in Science – Enhancing the Value of Research and Innovation”, brought together over 300 local and overseas delegates from 24 countries. The Summit’s proceedings were flagged off by the Guest of Honour, Ms. Chan Lai Fung (Chairman, A*STAR and Permanent Secretary National Research and Development, Singapore), who enlightened attendees on how creating a diverse research and innovation environment is a powerful tool to meet societal challenges. Her passionate words fuelled an already charged audience, and thus ensued two glorious days of debate, discourse and discussion.
A wide range of topics were covered during the multitude of talks, panel discussions and poster presentations held at the Summit: tackling conventional perceptions of gender and engrained issues of gender bias in academia, implementing gender equality interventions for advancing research capacities, strategizing how the impact of gender equality policies can be maximised in science, incorporating gender perspectives in vaccine design and delivery, and even utilising AI and digitalisation to achieve more gender sustainable futures were among the key ideas, insights and concepts addressed. Conversations extended beyond the vicinity of conference halls and seminar rooms, as delegates shared an engaging evening together over drinks and dinner at the chic KPMG clubhouse located in the CBD. As the sun set on day two, one could not help but feel a sense of responsibility, motivation and hope that gender equality and equity will find its much deserved and needed place in scientific research and policy. The uplifting words of encouragement by Prof. Zee Upton (Executive Director, IMB – A*STAR and Executive Director, SRIS) during the closing remarks aptly recapitulated the highlights of the Summit and were a call-to-action for conversations to be translated into practice. With new partnerships and associations forged, Dr. Politzer further urged delegates to bring about tangible change and walk the walk to transform gender issues into opportunities for a better future.
As the global journey to achieve gender balance in science, technology and innovation forges ahead, SgWIS will always remember Singapore’s first Gender Summit as a true testament to the cause and a shining example of purpose, hard work, dedication and collaboration.