As Singapore is moving towards becoming a Smart Nation, many expect that this will affect the growing demand for graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). More women should be encouraged to pursue careers in these areas to reap the benefits of this trend, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
Speaking at the annual conference for the People’s Action Party Women’s Wing on Saturday (Aug 25), Ms. Fu said that STEM industries will feature strongly in the nation’s future as more production and processes are automated and digitalised. While degree courses in sciences and architecture have seen increasing numbers of female students more than male students in the past decade, women remain under-represented in IT and engineering courses, she added.
The proportion of women enrolling in IT courses in Singaporean universities have dropped from 39 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2016, while those signing up for engineering courses grew slightly from 28 percent in 2007 to 30 percent in 2016.
“We should encourage more girls and women to take an interest in Stem, and pursue a career in these areas to benefit from the fast-growing Stem industries and the many good-paying jobs out there,” Ms. Fu told some 400 party activists at the event.
She noted that while a recent graduate employment survey ranked computer science graduates among those with the highest starting salary, women were found to be less represented in the role. According to a 2016 report by the Infocomm Media Development Authority, only 30 percent infocomm employees in Singapore were women.
Ms. Fu also urged party activists to help ensure that technological change benefits users of all backgrounds, “so we can move in an inclusive way, and not have only a small group race ahead, leaving the others behind”.
A panel of women leaders from companies such as Grab and IBM spoke at the event, themed “Smart Women for a Smart Nation”, which hosted a technology fair, Straits Times reports.
Ms. Feon Ang, vice-president of LinkedIn’s talent and learning solutions for Asia-Pacific, said there is a skills gap in Singapore, with top talent in the three most in-demand skills – artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing – being lost to organisations overseas.
Ms. Janet Ang, vice-president for industry solutions and business development at IBM Asia-Pacific, addressed the “growing concerns of job loss” with the advancement of artificial intelligence. “With AI systems that are coming, IBM has put forward the key point that it should extend and scale the expertise of human beings, not replace them, and therefore, such systems have to be built with transparency and purpose,” she said.
Research indicates that around 7 percent of jobs are at risk of obsolescence. But new jobs will also be created, and workers should have access to the knowledge and skills to carry out these jobs, added Ms. Ang.