Employee story

Bank of Singapore sets up dedicated network to build bridges for women

08 March 2021 • 3 mins read

[From left] Colleagues Shirley Tee, Carolyn Tham, Simren Panoo and Audrey Teo are members of the Bank of Singapore Women's Network which was set up last year in June.

Diversity and inclusion have always been high on the priority list for Bank of Singapore. This year, it is celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) with a bang.

A panel of notable speakers – including Deborah Ho, country head for BlackRock Singapore and head of Southeast Asia for the asset manager; Loretta Yuen, head of Group Legal and Regulatory Compliance at OCBC Bank; and Huang Shao-Ning, founder of AngelCentral and JobsCentral – will share insights as female leaders in business with our colleagues.

The event is organised by the Bank of Singapore Women’s Network, set up just last year.

The inspiration for the Network came almost exactly a year ago. Then, Jean Chia, Head of Portfolio Management & Research Office, gave a speech at an IWD 2020 event at Bank of Singapore. She told her audience how her own mentors helped her chart her career path, develop her leadership skills, and broaden her own sense of self-awareness.

“Throughout my life, I had consciously and unconsciously sought the counsel of men and women whom I respect,” she said then. Her advice was to “proactively create a circle of mentors around you. A senior at work; a leader from another organization or industry; a peer from school; a relative you respect.”

Her remarks spurred discussion amongst Bank of Singapore staff. The topic: That setting up an internal network could help empower women and help build bridges for women at all levels. A committee – spearheaded by the human resources team at the bank – was formed and the Women’s Network was launched in June 2020.

Events run by the Network give women colleagues the chance to explore unique challenges that women in business face and get access to insights from business leaders. The Network is also a member of Financial Women’s Association Singapore (FWA), an organisation that drives professionalism in the financial sector, with special emphasis on the role of women and the development of future leaders.

The membership allows Network members to attend events of the FWA, which include webinars with industry leaders. The Network is also seeking out other external partners, so that Network members can broaden their business connections and get exposure to different companies, ways of working, and perspectives.

“The aim of the Network is three-fold,” says Global Head of Human Resources Jeffrey Chiam. “It was set up to help women at the bank build connections, share experiences and enhance perspectives of their roles in the Future of Work as well as in the wider community.”

“The Network is yet another step forward for us to celebrate diversity and inclusivity. It complements a slew of initiatives the Bank already has in place so that women can discuss gender issues and equality while connecting with their peers.”

The Network is yet another step forward for us to celebrate diversity and inclusivity. It complements a slew of initiatives the Bank already has in place so that women can discuss gender issues and equality while connecting with their peers.

Jeffrey Chiam, Global Head of Human Resources

In future, the Network will introduce training and mentoring initiatives by both internal and industry experts, with the aim to help broaden the skills of women employees at the bank.

In this challenging time when distancing and remote working is the norm, the Network produces an ‘up close and personal’ monthly interview that shines a spotlight on female managers and colleagues.

These interviews are distributed bank-wide to all staff, at home and abroad, and helps build a culture where staff feel they know and understand each other better.

Committee members were careful to avoid creating a ‘women’s only’ network, which goes against the spirit of true diversity, says Jeffrey. Thus, men who are raising their hands for inclusivity are welcome to join the network and are welcome to speak at events.

The Network is also aligned with the Bank’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets to grow the pool of women in leadership positions.

“In an age of inclusivity, it is important that mixed groups be the norm,” he says. “This helps to open up frank conversations and gives men in the organisation a platform to help mentor and support their women colleagues.”

The Network now has over 100 members globally and has run two bank wide virtual events thus far, one of which was titled Coffee with our Leaders.

That saw the Bank’s CEO, Bahren Shaari, as well as others such as Head of Global Investors & Family Offices Lim Li Li; and Chief Data and Innovation Officer Celine Le Cotonnec, take to the stage and share their thoughts on diversity.

“A Women’s Network can support women in their growth within the organisation,” says Jean, who once again spoke at the Network’s Coffee with Leaders event. “It can be a platform where we can give voice to our perspectives. It can also be used to groom leaders for the future or our organisation.”

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