There are many reasons why you aren’t getting the leg up that you need in your career and our Great Women of Our Time alumni have seen it all, from productivity issues to not being a team player.
If you’ve really got you heart set on climbing the career ladder at your current company, however, heed the advice of our nominees who have faced adversity and beyond but still emerged better off in the end. They join an illustrious list of women who have been nominated previously, including a marine biologist, a media savant and a material scientist.
Every year as part of the Great Women of Our Time awards, which throws the spotlight on 18 outstanding, high-achieving working women every year in six respective categories, we ask our nominees to share their life stories with us in a bid to inspire others. Here’s what our Science & Technology nominees had to share with us:
Armed with a PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences from Harvard University, A*STAR scientist Dr Aw is currently set on finding the causes and potential treatment of age-progressive neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, using genetics, molecular and imaging techniques. This is to ensure our ageing population can cope with old-age onset diseases.
She’s conducting her research on the Drosophila fruit fly, which she claims shares 60 per cent of human genes.
“We look into these tiny fly brains, to find the causes of and potential treatments for dying brain cells that lead to neurodegeneration. Using the fruit fly model is actually faster than studying human cells because it only takes 11 days for the Drosophila to grow from an egg to an adult,” she explains.
Despite the heavy subject matter of her research, Dr Aw still finds time to care for her two sons aged four and one. “While a career in the Sciences is demanding, it’s also simultaneously flexible,” she says.
“It’s less rigid than other industries, in my opinion, because I’m still able to go to parent-teacher meetings or pick up my son from school if he suddenly falls sick.”
A supportive family helps, too. “My husband also works in the Sciences, so we have developed an understanding with each other and take turns to carry out a lot of parenting duties. At the end of the day, that’s what parenting is about: Teamwork.”
Dr Fong helms a five-man team of biomedical engineers. Their aim? Engineering liver tumours and testing anti-cancer drugs on them, to aid research scientists in their quest for a cure.
“Increasingly, in cancer research, we find that we can’t just use a one-drug-to-treat-all approach for patients. For example, two patients may both be suffering from liver cancer, but patient A may respond to a drug very differently to patient B,” she explains.
Her research team hopes to develop a personalised approach to cancer treatments. While they are currently growing tiny liver cancer tumours in a laboratory setting, Dr Fong is optimistic her team is making incremental steps towards testing on cancer cells from real patients, and hopefully find a cure.
“One of the driving factors that led me into this particular research was realising cancer is actually much more prevalent than we think. There have been people in my family who have been affected by it; I know of people my age, who’ve been touched by it. Cancer can hit anyone from a young toddler to a mother-of-three, to someone who is in their twilight years,” says Dr Fong, who is aware that finding a cure will be a long process, but hopes her research in bioengineering will contribute to that end.
As for being the female head of her team, Dr Fong says gender has never interfered with group dynamics.
“I think that has a lot to do with who you choose to collaborate with. Women have to be able to be selective and be more aware of the people they work with. I lucked out in that I found people who were all supportive of my approach to the research programme. All of us also have the same goal in pushing the science forward to achieve our end target.”
It’s hard to think of the Little Red Dot as a place where the space industry can thrive, but the SSTA is changing that perception.
Lynette, who oversees the running of the association, says, “Becoming a smart nation and tapping into the Internet for things, these all require space-borne assets,” she shares. “So, we set up SSTA in 2007 to raise awareness and interest in Singapore’s space efforts, which currently consist of getting satellites launched for surveillance and research purposes.”
By the end of this year, SSTA would have completed its first satellite launch mission; playing its part to launch another of the country’s satellite into space.
This is a personal milestone for the mother-of-two who has harboured a passion for the field of space technology since her youth. “I studied in the US where there was a correlation between space technology and how it drives innovation – I want that to be a reality for Singapore. We’re a technologically-advanced country that embraces innovation, so being involved in reaching for the stars should naturally resonate with us.”
Lynette recognises there is still gender inequality in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She reveals, “I could see first-hand that as I moved up in my career, there were less and less women being represented at senior management levels.”
She attributes this largely to society’s expectations of women being the primary caregivers. “Society needs to recognise that not all the responsibilities of parenting need to fall on the mother; only then can women truly thrive in their chosen careers.”