From science to media – here are the Women of the Future from Singapore and Malaysia

Christina Gao (left) from Shell and Fundnel’s Khai Lin Chua were among the winners at the Women of the Future South East Asia awards on Mar 20, 2018.
Women of the Future Twitter account and Lianhe Zaobao

Without a glass ceiling, the sky is the limit for Southeast Asia’s young women.

An award ceremony held in Singapore on Tuesday (Mar 20) gave recognition to these trailblazers making changes in their various fields of work.

Originating from the UK 12 years ago, the Women of the Future Awards held its first Southeast Asian edition at the Hilton Singapore to honour some of the region’s most outstanding female leaders.

Citing talent shortage in Asia Pacific, the organisation said on its website that it was recognising top female talent in Asia because “women as a demographic group represent an extremely large untapped resource”.

“We believe that the WOF programme can encourage, motivate and provide role models to inspire and strengthen the female talent pipeline and in the process create a global community of supportive and collaborative women,” the organisation said.

In total, 10 Singaporean and 12 Malaysian women were shortlisted across nine categories at the inaugural edition of the Women of the Future Awards South East Asia.

Other than acknowledging women, the organiser also handed the Global Empowerment Award to DBS CEO Piyush Gupta, who was described as an “extraordinary leader who is changing the organisational landscape as we know it and enabling greater opportunities for women in Southeast Asia”.

Here’s a look at the winners from Singapore and Malaysia who were recognised at the ceremony this year.


Dr Chern Ein Oon (Malaysia) – Science, Technology & Digital Award

Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Chern Ein Oon edged out four other outstanding nominees, including three other Malaysians, to win the top honour in the science category.

Recognised for her work in molecular cancer therapy, the organisers said the award could help broaden the impact of Dr Chern’s work.

“She has overcome many struggles to be where she is today and she is not afraid of making mistakes. Instead she is a true leader, with tenacity by the bucket load and a determination to make a difference and inspire others,” the organiser said.

Khai Lin Chua (Singapore) – Entrepreneur award

A former banker, Khai Lin Chua left her job to join Fundnel, an online equity fundraising platform which she co-founded.

According to the company’s website, CFO Chua “supports the deal committee in an advisory role specific to all incoming deals and investor relations”.

Award organisers said in a Facebook post that under Chua’s leadership, Fundnel is “growing rapidly and looks set for further global expansion”.

Christina Gao (Singapore) – Business award

Singaporean Christina Gao was just an intern when she first started working at Shell in 2010. Fast forward to 2018, and she is now Global product manager of Digital Ventures at the oil and gas giant.

Gao was recognised for her role in leading Shell’s commitment to cleaner energy solutions.

Judges gave her the Business Award, and commended her work in transport sector innovations.

“She has unceasingly applied herself across multiple geographies to deliver breakthroughs in traditional industries in which Shell operates,” a description on the organiser’s Facebook page read.

Jessica Cheam (Singapore) – Media & Communications award

The award organisers said judges were “struck by Jessica’s drive and her clearly etched goals”.

Former environment correspondent for The Straits Times, Cheam is now an environmentalist and managing editor of Eco-Business who has partnered with the UN and the Singapore government to support her environmental initiatives.

She was described by award organisers as someone with “a humble background and many hardships”.

“She has remarkable courage, shedding light on under-reported stories, and a tenacity to work and develop a niche market,” a description on the organiser’s page said.