Talent & Tech Asia Summit 2024
Breaking Barriers: Energy Market Authority's Xuan Wei Sim is fighting stigmas in a male-dominated industry

Breaking Barriers: Energy Market Authority's Xuan Wei Sim is fighting stigmas in a male-dominated industry

As a female engineer, Xuan Wei has admittedly faced some challenges early on due to the perception that engineering is primarily a field for men. She tells us how she is overcoming this.

As a Principal Engineer in the Energy Management Systems Department at the Energy Market Authority (EMA), Xuan Wei Sim (pictured above) has had the privilege of being involved in exciting projects and initiatives aimed at ensuring a reliable energy supply for Singapore. Together with her capable teammates, she has helped to integrate renewable energy sources into the grid, adopt advanced technologies to enhance the efficiency of power system operations, and maintain the cybersecurity posture of the power sector.

"While my individual contributions seem small in the grand scheme of things, I believe they play a vital role in ensuring energy reliability in Singapore and contribute directly to building and driving Singapore’s energy ecosystem through change and innovation."

One particular project she was involved in was the testing and commissioning of the Energy Management System that took place in US and Singapore respectively. On this project, she had the opportunity to work with a team of highly capable colleagues, both women and men.

"I am grateful for these opportunities and proud of the achievements obtained as part of these projects, she tells Arina Sofiah.

Stigmas faced in the engineering industry

As a female engineer, Sim has admittedly faced some challenges early on due to the perception that engineering is primarily a field for men. Despite these initial doubts, she shares, she persevered and followed her passion, pursuing an engineering diploma and degree.

Even today, she has noticed that when interacting with external parties on email, she has often been assumed to be a man — an issue that has highlighted the importance of breaking gender stereotypes and ensuring diversity in any field.

"Thankfully, I am fortunate to be in an organisation where gender does not define one’s capabilities or potential. Within my workplace, I feel at ease despite the traditionally male-dominated nature of the field. I appreciate the supportive atmosphere that has allowed me to contribute effectively.

"As women engineers, we might find ourselves suppressing our identities to prioritise our professional identity as engineer."

As such, she emphasises the need to address and change this dynamic if one aspires to create a future where being an engineer is just as normal for women as it is for men – common, fair, and accessible.

Fortunately for Sim, her role has allowed her to work alongside a group of female engineers who, as she points out, have served as invaluable role models and sources of inspiration throughout her engineering journey. From senior leaders to co-workers, these women have showcased their competence, dedication, and responsibility in the energy industry.

"Their competence and professionalism are evident in every project and task they undertake."

She is quick to give a shout-out to her colleague, Feng Tong, a senior specialist in EMA's Power System Operation division, for her technical competency "is unparalleled", and her "remarkable" dedication to work in the projects that she has been involved in. "Her expertise and guidance have been instrumental in navigating complex challenges and achieving successful outcomes."

Feng Tong’s willingness to share her knowledge and provide guidance has been a source of inspiration, Sim adds, citing her attention to detail and ability to think critically as points of inspiration for Sim to continually improve her own skills.

She continues: "My best friend, Sher Wei, has been an unwavering source of inspiration and support throughout our journey from engineering school to becoming colleagues in the industry. Sher Wei’s ability to successfully juggle her roles as a young mother and an engineer is truly admirable. Her unwavering commitment to her family and her career is a testament to her exceptional strength and character, and I am grateful to have her as both a best friend and a colleague.

"And lastly, my 3.5-year-old niece serves as a significant source of motivation for me to continue my career in STEM. My aspiration for women’ representation in the energy sector is to reach a point where it becomes so commonplace that it fosters a culture where young girls and women feel empowered to pursue careers in STEM without hesitation or doubt."

She expresses: "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such exception female engineers. Their accomplishments and achievements in the energy industry have paved the way for younger generations, including myself. 

Like Newton, I see further because I stand on the shoulders of giantesses.

The importance of overcoming gender biases

Diversity fosters creativity and innovation by encouraging varied viewpoints and problem-solving approaches. Diverse teams make better decisions by considering a broader range of factors and potential consequences. This leads to well-rounded and effective solutions.

By promoting diversity, organisations can tap into a wider talent pool and attract and retain individuals from diverse backgrounds who bring unique skills and perspectives to the table, Sim believs.

At EMA, the board recognises the paramount importance of overcoming gender biases and championing diversity within our workplace. The team embraces different perspectives to push beyond status quo.

We firmly believe that diversity is not just a checkbox but a catalyst for excellence, and it aligns seamlessly with our core values of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity.

EMA's commitment to diversity ensures that its teams consider a broad range of factors and potential consequences, leading to well-rounded and effective solution, all working towards a shared mission of building a clean energy future that is resilient, sustainable, and competitive.

Over the years, Sim has witnessed a significant positive shift in the representation of women in the energy industry.

"It is heartening to see more and more women in the energy industry entering and thriving in this field."

This surge in representation is a refreshing change and a testament to the growing recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusivity.

Empowering the next generation of young women in engineering

Throughout her professional journey, Sim has had the opportunity to work on various projects that allowed her to witness the direct or indirect impact of the work on Singapore. These experiences have shaped her personal and professional development while reinforcing her determination to make a positive difference in the energy industry.

Her advice? Gender should never be a barrier to one’s ambitions. Despite historic imbalances, more and more women are breaking barriers and achieving incredible feats in STEM.

"You have the power to be part of this transformation and change the narrative. By pursuing your passion and stepping in STEM fields, you are not only advancing your own dreams but also create opportunities for future generations."

Looking ahead, Sim's goal is to continue contributing to Singapore's energy landscape by actively participating in projects that advance the reliability and sustainability of our energy infrastructure.

"EMA's commitment to innovation, combined with its diverse and talented workforce who care for one another, positions us well to address the evolving challenges in the energy sector and make lasting positive impacts on the nation's energy reliability.

"I’m grateful that, as a part of EMA, I get to play a role in overseeing and regulating the energy landscape, ensuring a stable and secure supply of electricity for the nation.

Rounding up the interview, she says: "I hope to leave a lasting positive impact on Singapore’s energy landscape, making it more resilient, environmentally friendly, and accessible for all while ensuring the stability of our grid."

Lead image / Provided 

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