Every year, we celebrate the achievements of 18 outstanding women. Meet 2016’s winners…

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Every year, we celebrate the achievements of 18 outstanding women. Meet 2016’s winners…


Photos : Eddie Teo , Jeff Chang, Joel Loh, Nicky Loh
Photos : Eddie Teo , Jeff Chang, Joel Loh, Nicky Loh

Yvon Bock, 36 Founder and Managing Director, Hegen

“Hegen is like my own flesh and blood,” says Yvon, whose vision has always been about making a difference. The mother-of-four drew on her own breastfeeding experience to create a revolutionary line of baby bottles, with the aim of designing products that protect the integrity of breast milk and advocate breastfeeding. In 2014, Hegen showcased at Kind & Jugend, the largest baby products trade show in Cologne, Germany. “To me, success is measured by the amount of happiness that you’ve brought to people around you, and how much they are inspired to pay it forward,” shares the warm-hearted mum-preneur. “If I had to choose between being liked or respected, I’d still go for being liked. It’s important to me that people around me are happy.” Yvon adds, “An entrepreneurial life is never easy. The key is to believe in yourself; stay focused on your vision and constantly remind yourself that you can do better than others.”


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Lim Wenhui, 34 Partner, Spark Architects

“It was a real ‘Mary Poppins moment’,” replies Wenhui with a smile, when asked to describe how she felt when she was announced as the category winner. “One word: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” she finishes delightedly. As the director spearheading Spark Architect’s Singapore headquarters, Wenhui oversees its global brand and graphic identity. She also led the teams that won Spark’s first commissions in Vietnam in 2009, and in Australia in 2013. Spark Architects is the award-winning and socially conscious firm behind the architectural designs of the rejuvenated Clarke Quay, and the beautiful Shanghai International Cruise Terminal. “I recently met a client who offered us several exciting design opportunities,” Wenhui shares. “After a day of presentations and positive exchanges, he said he wanted to work with Spark, but wished to communicate with a man. I had to make a decision between pursuing this new business opportunity by passing the projects on to a male colleague, or standing by my principals – I was perfectly capable of doing the job and saw no reason to give in to sexism, in what is a very male-dominated industry.” She adds, “It’s important to me to build a studio brand that stands by its ideals – such as gender equality, and working with forward-thinking, like-minded clients. I decided to walk away from the project and the client, a decision I’m glad I made, and would make again.”


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Fion Phua, 46 Founder, Keeping Hope Alive

When The Weekly asked this year’s Great Women Of Our Time Awards winners, who they felt most inspired by, one name rang loud and clear: “Fion walks the talk and inspires so many to get out of their comfort zones to do their part for the needy”; “She has selflessly contributed two decades of her life to helping out the less fortunate”; “I respect her for her humility and long term dedication towards the community”; “I admire her drive to help people in a very immediate and relevant manner, a bed for a person who otherwise sleeps on the floor, milk powder for an unwed mother who can’t afford it, trimming an elderly person’s toe nails… Fion rolls up her sleeves and gets it done – and she’s able to rally others to do the same. It takes an incredibly giving person, one with a big heart and tough constitution, to be able to do that, and she does it every day.” These heartfelt comments leave no doubt about the tenacious nature of this mumof- one, who has been knocking on the doors of one- and two-room rental flats every Sunday morning, actively seeking out residents who need help. Fion and her team of over 50 volunteers deliver porridge and provide them with practical necessities like induction cookers and mattresses. Last year, she was recognised at the annual President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards, and also won the 2015 Singapore Woman Award. “Always approach people with humility,” she shares, “Regardless of social status, everyone has dignity.”


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Associate Professor Ho Ghim Wei, 40 Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Engineering Science Programme, Faculty of Engineering, National University of Singapore

“Taking up an academia position in the male-dominated Faculty of Engineering has been my biggest career risk,” reveals Associate Professor Ho, who strongly believes that women can excel equally in the STEM industry. “I faced a lot of challenges – including those that came along with being stereotyped,” shares the mum-of-two, who pushed herself to work even harder to gain the respect of her male colleagues. A Materials Scientist by training, Associate Professor Ho started her academic career fresh out of completing her PhD degree in Electrical Engineering at University of Cambridge. “My early days of research programme were tied to my interest in developing advanced functional materials for solar cells, which eventually evolved into photocatalysis,” she says. Today, Associate Professor Ho leads the Ho Research Group at NUS, with the aim of creating novel nanostructured materials for energy and environmental sustainability. Last year, Associate Professor Ho was an honoree winner in the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) 2015 Awards. “Confidence in any endeavour is important,” she affirms, “It enables strong character, so that you’ll not easily be put down by people and failures.”


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Dr Sheila Vasoo, 46 Senior Consultant and Rheumatologist, Mt Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre

“This recognition affirms all that I believe in, and have put my heart and passion into,” shares Dr Vasoo. “I’m so moved that others too, see that helping couples – women in particular, to fulfil their desire to become parents, is a worthy and notable ambition. Winning this award encourages me to press on!” Dr Vasoo’s passion for Reproductive Immunology began in 2004, during her subspecialty training in “Sticky Blood Syndrome”, where she worked with Professor Graham Hughes at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. Upon her return, she pioneered the Pregnancy Loss Program at the National University Hospital with Professor Mahesh Choolani – it was the first in Singapore to offer immunotherapy to women with immune-related recurrent miscarriages. In 2012, Dr Vasoo was awarded the John Gusdon New Investigator Award at the joint American and European Society of Reproductive Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting, for her work on the placenta and the immune system, in women with recurrent pregnancy losses. “Success is the legacy that we leave behind when we leave this earthly scene. It is measured by the lives that we touch or enrich,” says the mum-of-three, “The joy of seeing couples cradling their newborns, their lives transformed forever, gives me the impetus to keep going.”


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Lim Shujuan, 33 Curator, National Gallery Singapore

Following a $532m decade-long restoration, the National Gallery Singapore finally opened its doors to the public last November. The 64,000 square metre museum is now home to the world’s biggest collection of modern Southeast Asian Art, and behind the transformation of Singapore’s former Supreme Court and City Hall, stands a committed team of industry experts, including Shujuan, who was on-site every two weeks overseeing restoration works. “I often walked the Gallery grounds alone, documenting the transformation process as I uncovered the stories behind (such as the existence of a secret passageway between the holding cells and the courtroom that was traversed only by guards and prisoners),” she recalls. “Most people know little of the history behind these former government buildings because they were not accessible to the general public.” The dedicated building history curator was also the project editor of The Making of National Gallery Singapore, a 168-page hardcover that documents the history and transition of the two national monuments. “It’s an honour to receive this award, and I endeavor to work harder,” says Shujuan, who’s currently in the UK pursuing her Masters in Conservation of Historic Buildings.


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Tan Su-Lyn, 43 Co-founder and CEO, The Ate Group

“I don’t work to gain recognition, but it’s always nice to receive a pat on the back. A business does not flourish on the strength of a sole individual, and ours relies entirely on our team. This award gives credit to the many people around me who enable and help me to do what I do,” says the mum-of-two who co-founded integrated communications agency, The Ate Group (which counts Odette, Destination New South Wales, and The Omakase Group, amongst its illustrious list of clients), and popular food blog, Chubby Hubby, with her husband, Aun Koh. Su-Lyn is also the editor behind numerous cookbooks and restaurant guides, such Passion & Inspiration (renowned local Chef Justin Quek’s first cookbook), and the Lonely Planet World Food Guide to Malaysia and Singapore. “We mustn’t underrate the value of peer support, she says. “I’ve benefitted from meeting many circles of women who may be at different points of their lives, but all juggle and balance many demands to carve out a niche for themselves, while doing something they believe in.” Su-Lyn adds, “They wear grit and determination with such grace upon their shoulders. And from them, I have taken strength, and learning.”


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Winnie Chan, 40s Founder and CEO, Bynd Artisan

“When I put effort and energy into something, and it brings me joy and a sense of achievement – that, to me, is success,” shares this stylish mum-of-two, who has worked hard at her vision of promoting craftsmanship, talented artists, and mature workers within a sustainable business structure, in the form of Bynd Artisan. Reflecting her fight to take the traditional art of bookbinding into the future, the homegrown brand is Winnie’s way of providing younger customers with a tactile experience of choosing and making their own notebooks – something that, as the third generation scion of Grandluxe (a 71-year-old stationery manufacturing company), Winnie wants to preserve as we enter a digital world. In July, Bynd Artisan (which can be found in selected retailers in Singapore), made its first international launch in Lane Crawford IFC, Hong Kong. “I hope that those who feel trapped in ‘sunset industries’ can refer to what we’re doing here as a reference point for traditional businesses, and be inspired to break new ground.”


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Chrissy Goh-Tasker, 49 Founder and CEO,

“I often avoided the limelight in the past, preferring to do charity work anonymously,” says the humble mum-of-three, who started off as an independent entrepreneur with an online platform retailing sporting goods. “My first employees were PWDs (People With Disabilities), and they remain in my company till this day,” she reveals, “Over the years, I’ve employed many PWDs and ex-convicts – everyone is treated fairly with equal opportunities given.” Today, Chrissy’s company JLCSports. com is the leading online platform that functions as both retailer and wholesaler, for popular sports brands such as Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Asics, New Balance, Nike and Converse worldwide. She has also diversified her work into the business of recycling. Her latest venture, The Gon Company, has developed a Domestic Crushing Machine that reduces the size of recyclable cans and bottles. Chrissy affirms with confidence in her voice, “With this award, I feel a strong sense of responsibility. I want to carry this title well, and now endeavour to put myself out there more, so that I can inspire and empower others.”