When women support each other, magical things happen. This was made evidently so from what the 60 participants shared at the kick-off session of the Women Supporting Women (WSW) Mentorship Programme’s expansion last Friday, as part of the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversation Campaign.
The WSW Mentorship Programme is a six-month-long community mentoring programme that offers female job seekers, including fresh graduates, women-returners and mid-career switchers, an opportunity to be mentored by women leaders across different industries.
Born out of a partnership between NTUC and North East CDC, the programme was piloted by U Women and Family (U WAF) in Punggol Shore Constituency in 2020 and benefitted a total of 48 mentees.
Challenges women face navigating the workforce
Announcing the expansion of the WSW Mentorship Programme last Friday at Punggol 21 Community Centre, Director of NTUC U SME and U WAF, Ms Yeo Wan Ling, emphasized the crucial role women play in our society and acknowledges the many challenges and barriers women face in their professional and personal journey.
As our society ages, caregiving becomes an even more significant responsibility. With women making up 60% of caregivers in Singapore and being nearly four times more likely to have left their jobs due to their caregiving roles than men, many found it daunting and challenging to return to the workforce.
“There are women in our community looking to develop themselves in professional and personal capacities but face various challenges going back to the workforce – be it the need to juggle caregiving responsibilities or the fear of being out of touch with the workforce after taking an extended break from work.”
What the WSM Mentorship Programme offers
During the sharing session, many women raised that they felt that their skills were outdated having been out of the workforce for a long time. Some lack the confidence to return to work citing worries on the part of caregiving for their children or elderly parents. Some even mentioned that they have declined job offers for fear of not being able to rise to the challenge.
Working in hand with NTUC, these are areas the WSW Mentorship Programme seeks to tackle. Apart from the career mentorship and networking opportunities that mentees get to benefit from this programme, mentees are also provided with training and employment support, such as access to employability talks or career fairs featuring progressive employers.
Ms Poornima Nadarajah, one of the participants at the kick-off session last Friday, shared her views of and takeaways from the programme as a mentee.
“The programme allowed me to network with like-minded women and experienced professionals, better understand the career opportunities suited to my needs, and undergo upskilling to meet the evolving needs of the economy.”
Ms Lee Lai Kheng, another mentee of the programme, shared that through the programme, she was given the opportunity to upskill and build her confidence.
Mentors are not forgotten! U WAF works in tandem with NTUC Learning Hub and NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) to provide resources and training support programmes to build up the skillsets of mentors and ensure that they are adequately equipped, both in skills and knowledge, to guide mentees effectively.
Women supporting women is the fundamental key
One thing in common for both mentors and mentees under this programme was how the support and learning for these women work both ways.
Ms Lee mentioned how the constant encouragement and recommendation of different training courses by her mentor equips her with skills and most importantly, confidence, to re-join the workforce.
Ms Lynn Wong, a mentor of the programme and the Chairperson of Punggol 21 CC Women’s Executive Committee also shared her feeling and takeaways from the mentorship programme.
“The WSM Mentorship Programme is a meaningful platform to give back to the community by sharing new skills and experiences to support the women. It is very fulfilling for me because I learn new perspectives and new ideas through the mentorship programme mentoring my mentee and I strongly encourage more women to join us as mentors or mentees.”
Helping more women get the help they need
Recognising the concerns faced by many women nationwide in navigating the workforce, Ms Yeo “believes that the expansion of this mentorship programme will provide more women with the necessary support and guidance they need to thrive and reach their fullest potential in their professional and personal lives,”
Since the initial pilot rollout in Punggol Shore Constituency in 2020, U WAF has also extended the WSW Mentorship Programme to Yayasan MENDAKI and individual constituencies such as Jalan Kayu, Marymount, Thomson, West Coast and Nee Soon South.
Addressing the participants, Ms Yeo added,
“We hope that this programme is like planting a seed – it starts small, but with time and consistent effort, will bear much fruit in the lives of many women across Singapore.”
Missed the above session? It’s not too late yet! You can join the NTUC and give your thoughts and ideas on work by visiting the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations here.