SCWO‐Citi Singapore Women’s Hall of Fall
27 March 2015
Speech by Michael Zink, Head of ASEAN and Citi Country Officer, Singapore
Our Guest of Honor, Mdm Halimah Yacob, Speaker of Parliament
Penny Low, Member of Parliament
Malathi Das, President of SCWO
Our eleven honored Inductees for 2015
Thank you very much for joining us this evening for the 2015 induction ceremony for the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame. Citi is proud to be a sponsor of this event for the second consecutive year. At Citi we support diversity in all its forms, particularly gender diversity, because we believe it is a strategic imperative. Half of our 10,000 employees in Singapore are women, and we believe that our leadership team should reflect the employee base we seek to lead and the society we seek to serve. Our Singapore senior leadership team is 35% women today, a respectable percentage, but until it reaches 50% we still have some work to do.
I have a full speech prepared but given the sad passing of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew early
Monday morning I think I will lay that speech aside and share some other thoughts with you. As I listened to Malathi’s quote from centuries ago, another quote came to mind, one famous in Western history. Shortly before his death in 14 AD, the first Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, wrote a reflection of his reign of more than forty years, a period nearly as along as Singapore has been independent. Once he had completed this document entitled Res Gestae, which means “things done” but which may better be captured as “what has been accomplished”, Augustus is quoted as saying:
I was born to a city of brick
and I left a city of marble
This notion has guided me throughout my career. My wife Betsy, who is with us this evening, and I have spent 26 years working around the world, in ten different countries. Our goal wherever we have lived has been to leave each place better than we found it. No matter how good a place may be when you find it, there is always a contribution that can be made that would make it a better place.
In this sentiment that continues to echo across two millennia, we can see parallels with the accomplishments of Mr. Lee and the generation of nation builders represented this evening by our eleven inductees. Mr. Lee led Singaporeans to transform a poor colonial outpost into a shining city by the sea, and the legacy he leaves is a society built on meritocracy, incorruptibility, and a relentless pursuit of improvement and excellence. Our theme this evening “Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future” perfectly captures this moment. In this moment of grief, as we mourn the passing of an extraordinary individual, we sense that the torch has also been passed from the pioneer generation to our cohort. Tonight is a wonderful opportunity to honor some of those heroic nation builders, including the first woman pilot in the Republic of Singapore Air Force, the first woman in the world to breed a hybrid orchid, and several women who have been champions of the less fortunate and the voiceless in society. Our Guest of Honor Mdm Halimah Yacob is an inspirational example of a leader among public policy makers. The challenge for our cohort now is to take up that torch and to honor that past by protecting and nurturing our handsome inheritance, the legacy of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. We must build upon that legacy to shape a future in our own image, a future in which, among other things, women will take their rightful place as leaders of our society. Now is the moment for women to rise to their rightful leadership places in business, in the political arena, in civil society, and in our homes.
Citi has been a strong supporter of gender diversity. In celebration of International Women’s Day, which has practically expanded into International Women’s Month, we have celebrated more than 200 events in 65 cities around the world. There is still a lot of work to do before our leadership teams are 50% women, just as our employee base – and society at large – is 50% women. I wish to be very clear on one point. I do not view this is not a female issue. It is a human issue. I am delighted to see so many men here this evening and I applaud you for your support of all the women’s organizations captured under the SCWO umbrella. There are other men not in the room today but with us all in spirit, and that is heartening. Allow me to add, however, that there are still many men not with us this evening and not with us in spirit. Our challenge is to persuade society as a whole that – in line with our theme this evening – the future we wish to shape will see women as full and equal partners in that society, in all regards.
This has been a week of mourning, and in that mourning we have been able to slow down a little bit and reflect upon what has been accomplished, what has been passed on, and what sort of future lies before us. The story of that future has not yet been written. It is for us to write. If women rise to their rightful place as full partners in the leadership of our society then we will shape a fine future that will well and truly honor the past. It would be a future that I believe Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, smiling down upon us, might well approve.
Thank you all for coming this evening and thank you for all you do for others. May God bless you as you continue to lead your lives of purpose and meaning. Enjoy the rest of the evening.