Shirin Fozdar Programme Networking Evening: Celebrating Inclusiveness

Shirin Fozdar Programme Networking Evening: Celebrating Inclusiveness

Wednesday Dec 20,2017

Celebrating inclusiveness and offering insights into smashing gender stereotypes in corporate environments, the Shirin Fozdar Programme (SFP) Networking Evening took place on 29 November 2017 at SMU University Lounge. The evening facilitated vigorous exchanges and sharing of perspectives on topics such as gender balanced businesses, ways to better navigate barriers in the workplace as well as talent initiatives to further productivity and sustainability in today’s global economy.

Cocktails and refreshments came with plenty of food for thought as participants took the opportunity to mingle and network that evening. Speakers included renowned executive search consultant, Mr Heiner Thorborg, BoardAgender Committee Members, Ms Georgette Tan and Ms Karen Loon, as well as SFP Chairperson Ms Claire Chiang. BoardAgender, an initiative of Singapore Council of Women Organisation (SCWO) Women’s Register initiative, aims to provide a forum in Singapore to facilitate a greater awareness and understanding of the benefits of gender balanced business, and the advancement of more women into senior leadership roles and the boardroom.

Ms Chiang kicked off the evening programme with welcome remarks, where she highlighted SFP’s efforts to embrace pluralism, work hard at partnerships and explore possibilities over the course of the year. Continuing in its mission to serve as a platform to connect students, advocates, policy-makers, businesses, institutions and the public to nurture integrated perspectives, the SFP had organised multi-pronged engagements such as lectures, roving conferences, talks and workshops at SMU or around Singapore.

Having attracted close to 3,000 participants to its events in the past year, Ms Chiang underscored SFP’s focus in the next two years of exploring partnerships with students, faculty and communities to develop initiatives to shape a resilient Singapore. The programmes include support and mobility programmes for the elderly. Ms Chiang also urged members of the audience to reflect on the values of their organisations and the possibilities of collaboration with the SFP in the coming year.


Mr Thorborg, owner of Heiner Thorborg GmbH & Co. KG took the stage to give his views on how gender-balanced businesses demonstrated inclusiveness, as well as a competitive advantage for organisations. According to Mr Thorborg, the list of reasons why women in most regions and industries were still under-represented in boardrooms, was endless. Some of the common barriers to advancement included the “glass ceiling”, lack of role models and organisational support as well as having to juggle between family and career. As a result, many educated and gifted women may not have been given the opportunity to excel and reach senior leadership and management roles.

Peppering his speech with humorous anecdotes and paraphrasing meaningful quotes from books such as “Lean In” by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, Mr Thorborg emphasised the many opportunities for women to achieve success in the upper echelons of the workplace. He highlighted studies that had proven that management boards with more women representation enabled companies to tap into the best leadership and talent. This further enhanced the productivity and sustainability of organisations in the global economy today. 

Mr Thorborg’s speech was followed by a lively panel discussion titled “Get Over It!” Moderated by Ms Chiang, questions came swiftly from participants who were keen to engage the panelists for their views on the ways to work around stereotypes in the workplace. Ms Georgette Tan gave her perspective that a woman’s success in the workplace stemmed from factors such as individual confidence levels, education, intrinsic nature and opportunities available. She emphasised how organisations could seek ways to provide women with the opportunities to step up into leadership roles at every level.

Ms Tan pointed out how women may be more comfortable being viewed as leaders who sought to influence others, rather than to be viewed as women who assumed leadership positions for power. In alignment with Ms Tan, Ms Karen Loo added that it would help to use advances in big data to analyse and refine workplace processes such as fair recruitment and recognition. She called for senior management in organisations to offer support and speak up in situations where women or minority groups faced discrimination.

The evening concluded on an optimistic note, where it was unanimously agreed that organisations keen to attract talent in the competitive environment today should cultivate an environment of inclusion and respect for all individuals.  

Comprising a good mix of individuals from the public and private sectors, as well as students and academia, close to 100 participants in all gathered at SMU for the networking event. Among the audience were several notable guests, including Dr Jimmy Fozdar, son of the late Ms Shirin Fozdar, and SFP Advisory Board Members.


Featured photo: (L-R) Shirin Fozdar Programme (SFP) Chairperson Ms Claire Chiang, Ms Karen Loon, BoardAgender Committee Member, Mr Heiner Thorborg, executive search consultant and Ms Georgette Tan, BoardAgender Committee Member in a panel discussion at the SFP Networking Evening at SMU on 29 November 2017.