On 26 August 2015, Dr. Khoo Hoon Eng (National University of Singapore) fired up the audience with her passion for female leadership education. She crafted a compelling case for the critical importance of educating women for the betterment of society. Educating women allows more young women to develop skills and empowers them to change society. She views the education of women as a powerful weapon that that will allow us to change the world. In particular, Dr. Khoo advocated for the establishment of more liberal arts and science programmes and all-women universities.
Dr. Khoo highlighted that a good quality higher education should not be just an escalator for a student’s personal success; it should also increase the student’s capacity to transform her wider society. A liberal arts and sciences education is particularly effective for this purpose because it emphasizes the development of students’ capacity for critical thinking. Dr. Khoo strongly believes that a liberal arts and sciences education is the most effective way to educate students to act responsibly and effectively when challenging authority and convention to bring about change.
Why the need for more all-women universities? Dr. Khoo explains that leadership opportunities are often less accessible to women in co-ed universities. An education in an all-women university can engage women in discourse to overcome gender conditioning. It also helps to instill self-confidence in women by enabling them to make their own decisions in their own space. Statistics from the U.S. show the remarkable effect of attending an all-women university on women’s career outcomes. In the U.S., compared to women graduates from co-ed universities, graduate from women’s universities/colleges are 2 times more likely to attend graduate, medical schools or earn doctorates, 1.5 times more likely to start their own business, and enjoy 20-25% more in earnings.
Unfortunately, women are still severely unrepresented in leadership positions. For example, only 4.6% of CEOs of the S&P 500 Corporations are women. Although women start careers in business and other professions with the same level of intelligence, education, and commitment as men, comparatively few reach the top echelons. Dr. Khoo emphasised, “There is a great need for institutions that incubate female leaders”. Indeed, through the education of women, Dr. Khoo’s hope is that we will see more women pursuing leadership positions in all sectors of society.