subpage banner


Keynote Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in The Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and National Development, at The Women of The Future Awards Ceremony 2021 on 6 October 2021

06 Oct 2021
Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

A very good evening. 

1. I am extremely honoured to speak at this year’s ‘Women of the Future’ awards ceremony for South-east Asia:

a. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has brought to many aspects of our lives, I am glad that today’s virtual event brings together many exemplary women from South-east Asia, as we celebrate the achievements of young women during such trying times.


2. As a region, South-east Asia has made progress in recognising the contributions of women

a. In 2015, the average female labour force participation rate in South-east Asian countries was close to 67%, exceeding the OECD average by over 7 percentage points.

b. Last year, a study by Boston Consulting Group and the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore found that the participation of women in tech in South-east Asia is slightly higher than global averages.

c. Early this year, the ASEAN, Canada and UN Women jointly launched a 5-year programme to expand and strengthen women’s leadership and participation in conflict prevention, resolution, and recovery in South-east Asia. 

3. Where I am in Singapore, we have dedicated 2021 as ‘the year of celebrating Singapore women’

a. I am encouraged that our Government is looking to designate a public space to honour Singapore women.

b. I recently shared my personal story as part of the ‘this little girl is me’ social media campaign, which encourages women to share their personal tales and show girls that they, too, can achieve their dreams. I shared that my mother inspired me to persevere and reach far after my father passed away when I was five, and she worked very hard as a nurse to single-handedly bring me and my two siblings up.

Women of the Future Programmes

4. I believe that every woman can achieve your dreams; embrace the support and grab opportunities around you to make that happen.  

5. The ‘Women of the Future’ Programmes are a good example.  

a. The programmes create a platform for collaboration between like-minded women with similar goals, and supports them as they take the next step of their journey.

b. It provides a safe space and a support network for a global community of young women. Young women who are not afraid to question stereotypes and break boundaries. Young women who will drive positive change with hard work, determination and courage. 

6. This year, for the ‘Women of the Future’ South-east Asia awards, we have 61 finalists from 11 countries ranging from astro-physicists to Olympic gymnasts to human rights lawyers. 

a. Regardless of background and culture, the awards shine a light on the incredible achievements of young women, from academia to sport, from science to social work. 

7. Whether you are a winner, finalist, or nominee, I would like to congratulate all of you. 

8. You are in your own way a beacon of hope and inspiration to someone out there. And I know that many of you have done so while conquering many personal challenges. You should be proud of your achievements!  

The Way Forward

9. We have made much progress in our journey towards empowering women

a. Throughout the world, young girls and women are making a difference.

b. Who would have thought that a teenage Swedish girl would start a global rally for action in response to climate change? Or that a young Pakistani girl would start an international movement for equal access to education for children and girls?

10. But this is still not enough. COVID-19 has revealed our society’s enormous reliance on women, and at the same time underscored the challenges women continue to face:

a. At the workplace, women are heavily represented on the frontlines in our fight against the pandemic, from healthcare to social work to education.

b. At home, women shoulder most of the caregiving responsibilities. The burden on women is heavier than ever with school and daycare closures. 

c. In some societies, stereotypes and biases that hold women back remain. 

11. We need to take this opportunity to pause and think about how we can do better in appreciating and empowering women. 

12. Singapore has just ended a year-long series of discussions and engagements on ‘Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development’. 

a. We will have a White Paper next year which will include proposals to provide more equal workplace opportunities, more caregiver support and increased protection for women. 

b. I hope to continue hearing more of such conversations and initiatives.

13. We also need to bring both men and women into the conversation. 

a. I would like to give a shout out to Piyush Gupta, DBS Group CEO, who is on our judging panel today. 

b. Under his guidance, he has created a female-friendly corporate environment. 40% of DBS’s senior management are women. 

c. He has shown a promising example of what can be accomplished in encouraging diversity. 

d. I hope that many other organisations can follow suit. 

e. Talent shortages are more widespread in Asia than in any other region. We can achieve so much more by tapping on the potential of girls and women. 

14. We also need a mindset shift in the way we view domestic work 

a. Many women are our everyday heroines in the domestic and caregiving sphere.

b. They are equally deserving of praise and recognition. 


15. Let us create a world where every girl and woman is empowered to fulfill her aspirations and dreams, where every girl can learn and lead. 

16. I would like to congratulate our winners once again. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay committed to empowering women. 

17. Thank you!