Each year, The Weekly throws the spotlight on 18 inspiring women in The Great Women Of Our Time Awards. We are proud to announce this year’s award winners from the six categories, in addition to two honorary awards, a Most Inspiring Woman Award and a Lancôme Trendsetter Award. Congratulations!
The Great Women Of Our Time 2017 is presented by Lancôme.
In 2009, Tracie founded theatre company, Pangdemonium, with her actor-husband Adrian Pang and has been instrumental in widening the breadth of Singapore’s arts scene through her productions. The writer-producer-director recently won the Best Director gong at the M1-The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards, proving that there is a space for women in the arts industry despite cries to the contrary. “When I started out in the arts in Singapore, there weren’t very many women. Certainly not in the technical side; there would be me, maybe one other girl and a whole lot of guys. You had to be like one of the guys to get any amount of respect,” she says. “But I enjoyed it immensely because it proved that I could get things done regardless of my sex and it reached a point where I never even thought about it, I just followed my passion.”
Read more about Tracie Pang here.
Dr Rosemary serves as the Chief Executive Office of Veredus Labs, a Singapore-based medical diagnostics company. Her firm has made headlines for developing a test kit that can detect seven major tropical diseases, including Zika and dengue, from just a drop of blood. “We’re at the cutting edge of technology. We have shrunk an entire lab onto a chip that’s the size of a fingernail,” she explains. “As long as a specimen contains DNA, we can tell you what pathogens are contained in it.” Her inspiration? Sci-fi television series, Star Trek. “There is a clinic on board the Starship Enterprise with a scanner that detects all kinds of diseases in humans and it can tell you why you’re sick,” she explains. “I thought if they could have one on the show, why couldn’t we have one in real life? As a biologist, I knew I had to get a team together and create it.”
Read more about Dr Rosemary Tan here.
Architect, designer, researcher, and artist. It’s clear that Yu Nong has worn many hats during the course of her career, but one that doesn’t get a lot of air-time is eco-warrior. As co-founder of design studio, Khew + Cornelius, the petite powerhouse has always been interested in how design and technology can work together to solve the social problems of environmental degradation on Earth. “I looked at my immediate surroundings and thought, ‘What can I do’? I looked at the food we throw away on a daily basis, and decided to tackle the issue of waste,” Yu Nong explains. From there, she designed a smart home compost system that turns food scraps into fertiliser 50 times faster than the traditional way of composting. Currently, Yu Nong is also working on a range of 100 per cent compostable interior and lifestyle products.
Read more about Yu Nong Khew here.
Dubbed Singapore’s GI Jane, Esther has made history as Singapore’s first female naval diver with the elite Naval Diving Unit of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), in a job that involves search-and-rescue operations and explosive ordnance disposal. For many the sheer body strength needed to complete many of the tasks on the job are incomprehensible, and even more so for a lady. “Gender isn’t an issue: What’s more important is ability. I’m glad I listened to my heart and not the physical limitations of my body,” Esther says of her time in the force. “There was nothing more that I could ask for in a job that required both mental strength and mettle, with a strong emphasis on teamwork and professionalism.” After an illustrious 22-year career, Esther left earlier this year and she now takes part in expedition races in the desert and over mountains for hundreds of kilometres at a stretch.
Read more about Esther Tan Cheng Yin here.
Having experienced a poverty-stricken childhood, Jocelyn turned her life around and is now the boss of one of Singapore’s largest food companies, Sin Hwa Dee. A single mother of three after her husband passed away suddenly while her children were still young, Jocelyn is also the Chief Executive Officer at JR Group, which started serving hot meals from vending machines. Hot food from a box? While it may have its detractors, Jocelyn says it’s all a matter of perspective. “Changing people’s lifestyles and mind-sets is not easy, but we are excited about the revolution we are bringing to the F&B market,” she shares. “When ATMs first came out, no one wanted to use them. They were wary and suspicious, but now ATMs have become the norm. It’ll be like that, too, with Chef-in-Box.” The company has since launched 100 standalone vending machines, as well as Singapore’s first vending machine café.
Read more about Jocelyn Chng here.
Dr Li Jingmei studies mammogram images to see how breast density predicts cancer risks. She also plans to use Singapore’s nationwide disease registries to work out how genetic mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer slightly are linked to aggressive types of breast cancers. As such, Dr Li’s work is as important as ever in helping to improve the state of women’s health. “The thing about breast cancer is that no one wants to talk about it. They feel like being sick is a burden to others,” she says. “I aim to change that.” The daughter of a jewellery manufacturer and a housewife says it’s difficult to predict your risk of cancer if people in your family aren’t forthcoming about what illnesses they are suffering from. That’s part of the reason why she’s so driven to improve the lives of women in general.
Read more about Dr Li Jingmei here.
Never say die: That’s the attitude that Elim has adopted throughout her entrepreneurial journey. From humble beginnings as founder of streetwear label, 77th Street, to the start of a new venture with logistics app FastFast delivery, and the birth of a culinary empire with her I’m KIM Korean BBQ and GoroGoro Steamboat restaurants, Elim is a study on how to evolve as an entrepreneur according to market needs. Pretty impressive for someone who was written off by her teachers as a child. “In school, I used to get Fs all the time, but I didn’t let it get me down,” she reveals. While her business ventures have been lucrative to say the least, Elim is quick to point out that she’d rather her various companies make a social impact than make money. “Everything starts from the heart. Equally as important as doing well is doing some good in the world, so I’ve always tried to remember the less fortunate even when chasing success,” she shares. “Money is neutral; it’s what you do with the money you make that matters.”
Read more about Elim Chew here.
If you’re looking for someone who has made it a mission to give her time and energy to help others, look no further. Laura, the first Singaporean woman to be appointed as managing director of an international bank in 1984, was also president of the Singapore Council for Women’s Organisations from 2010 to 2014, where she motivated changes to the Women’s Charter to improve legal and support systems for divorced women and families. “Through the various organisations that I have served with, it was clear more could be done for other women and children. I felt it was my responsibility, as someone who is able to improve the situations of others, to play my part.” Her appointment two years ago as Singapore’s representative for women’s rights to the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) has allowed her to do just that, and underscores the importance her voice plays in empowering the women in Asia. Laura, ever the optimist, also believes gender equality can only get better from here.
Read more about Laura Hwang here.
At the tender age of 33, Candice has pushed e-commerce start-up ShopBack from a Singapore-based team of just three people in 2014 to a regional force of 100 employees today. In addition, her tenure as Chief Commercial Officer has seen the company flourish across six nations in Asia in less than three years, and outgrow their No. 1 competitor, Ebates.com, in the region. Not bad for a young lady who took a massive 70 per cent pay cut just so she could jump ship from finance to tech. “In 2012, I saw that my US-based friends whom I respected were making huge career switches. That helped to push me to make the change as well,” says Candice. “Most importantly, I realised that I didn’t see myself doing banking in the next five years when I took a moment to reflect my career path. I wanted to expand my skillsets and open more options.”
Read more about Candice Ong here.
A graduate of Visual Communication and trained in graphic design, Elyn actually got her start in another industry. “I was in the advertising executive for 16 years and I never imagined myself in fashion,” she confesses. “The reason I started the label was because of my insecurity. As a creative person, I also felt that even though I was in advertising I should be able to create anything. So I challenged myself to design a fashion line.” What began as a challenge quickly turned into a passion for Elyn as she married garment construction with architecture and installation art, resulting in home-grown fashion label, Stolen. The brand, which turns 10 this year, has come leaps and bounds since its inception. In 2014, Elyn took the label and participated in TMRW, a showcase featuring emerging designers from around the world during New York Fashion Week.
Read more about Elyn Wong here.