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Science Centre CEO apologises for sexist remark in letter to employees

SINGAPORE — Science Centre Singapore chief executive officer Lim Tit Meng has apologised for a letter sent to his staff on why he thought women did not have “the stature” to reach high-level positions in organisations, saying he recognised that his words were inappropriate.

SINGAPORE — Science Centre Singapore chief executive officer Lim Tit Meng has apologised for a letter sent to his staff on why he thought women did not have “the stature” to reach high-level positions in organisations, saying he recognised that his words were inappropriate.

In a letter sent to mark International Women’s Day in March, Associate Professor Lim said women appeared to outnumber men in management positions at the Science Centre and that the “glass ceiling seemed not really there for them”. However, he added that women’s “complex” nature “challenges” them with “communication barriers in even understanding their own gender well”, never mind having to compete or work with men.

The letter came to light after the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) on Thursday nominated it in its annual Alamak! Award, which highlights instances of sexism. A link to a copy of the letter is available on AWARE’s website.

Responding to queries yesterday, Assoc Prof Lim, who is also from the National University of Singapore’s Department of Biological Sciences, said he apologised “unreservedly”.

“My objective was to contextualise how women have been discriminated over time and across cultures. I wanted to motivate and challenge my colleagues to break the shackles of any stereotype and emerge the winner that they all can be,” he said. “I am proud to be part of a great team at the Science Centre and I deeply regret any distress caused to my colleagues by my words.”

As of yesterday, Assoc Prof Lim had received the most votes for the Alamak! Award among four nominees. In a distant second was lawyer Suresh Damodara, who had argued in court that his client, a serial rapist who had committed sexual offences on 22 women, deserved a reduced sentence as his victims were unconscious during the act and did not suffer the “usual trauma” of rape. Mr Suresh declined to comment when contacted.

The other two nominees — airline Scoot and Goldheart Jewelry — were called out for sexism in their advertisements. A Scoot spokesperson said the advertisements — which invoked gender stereotypes — took the perspective of both sexes. “Scoot has always sought to inject some fun, humour and even tongue-in-cheek into its advertisements, but we’ve never intended to offend. This campaign should be viewed in such a context,” the spokesperson said.

Goldheart Jewelry assistant brand manager Iris Tan said the purpose of its advertisement — which called on women to find strength “in her own weakness” — was “to embolden women to remain positive in the face of challenging moments”.

Previous years’ award winners included presidential election candidates Tan Jee Say and Tan Cheng Bock who, in 2012, were jointly “honoured” for sexist remarks made during their 2011 election campaigns.

Last year’s winner was the St Margaret’s Secondary School wig saga, in which principal Marion Tan told students who had shaved their heads for cancer awareness to wear wigs.

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