Singapore’s Very Own GI Jane Gives Us A Lesson On Breaking Gender Stereotypes

Every year, The Singapore Women’s Weekly shines the spotlight on 18 outstanding, high-achieving working women in the Great Women Of Our Time awards. These inspiring pioneers and game-changers are making an impact in different arenas in Singapore. In this series, we introduce the nominees in this year's awards. Here is the third nominee in the Education & Public Service category:

Esther Tan Cheng Yin, 42, Singapore’s First Female Naval Diver

At just 1.55 m tall, it’s hard to imagine Esther Tan as one of the nation’s toughest women. And yet, that’s exactly what she is.

Having recently left the Singapore Navy, where she held the rank of Major in the elite Naval Diving Unit, Esther still holds the distinction of being Singapore’s first female navy diver.

Dubbed Singapore’s GI Jane, Esther has made history 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.

Of her ceiling-shattering role, Esther surprisingly says that she didn’t set out to break any gender stereotypes.

“I did it because of the love of adventure and the thrill. It also goes beyond just the physical; it’s also about the mental capacity, the endurance and how far you are willing to push yourself,” she explains.