10 power women in Singapore & the experiences that shaped them

10 power women in Singapore & the experiences that shaped them

In celebration of International Women's Day which happened on Sunday (8 March), we're taking a look at some of the strongest, most dynamic women we know. And what better way to get inspired than by the women amongst us here in Singapore? These ladies are not just symbols of empowerment and hope; they're also more than ready to lend their strength and share what they have with the less privileged.

Each of these women have a rags-to-riches story that could bring you to tears, but it is also through their perilous journeys that they've become sources of inspiration worthy of this list.

1. Irene Ang

In an interview with Asia-City, Irene Ang revealed her troubled childhood growing up in a broken family. She had to work during the school holidays for her own pocket money, and as a stunt double for petty cash. Even her first stand-up comedy gig went off to a bumpy start.

But as the saying goes, "tough times don't last, tough people do", and her independence and versatility eventually won over her colleagues and audiences.

Her first breakout role was Rosie in local television sitcom Phua Chu Kang, and more recently as overprotective mother of Ken Chow in the Ah Boys To Men trilogy. But this familiar face in the local comedy scene is also the founder and CEO of Fly Entertainment, who in an honest interview with Yahoo! News Singapore, said as CEO she makes a humble $4500 per month, with more coming from her work as an artiste.

2. Jean Yip

Jean Yip salons and slimming centres - which are named after the founder herself - are known for their glamour and professionalism.

Jean Yip first forayed into hairdressing when, despite her father's objection, she enrolled in a local school offering an American hairdressing programme.

"He was upset at first as he perceived hairdressing to be the profession of women who were second wives," Yip admitted in an interview with Prestige Singapore.

To fund her studying, she had to secretly seek financial support from her mother, and paid the school in instalments.

She followed her passion for hairdressing, and eventually earned her father's blessings to study from the best teachers abroad. In 1982, the then-23-year-old Jean opened her first Jean Yip salon.

In 2000, Jean Yip Academy opened its doors to provide training and to certify Hair and Beauty specialists. It was eventually recognised by ITE as their NITEC Industry Training Provider.

Jean Yip Group is now a multinational conglomerate that has earned accolades from Superbrands, Readers' Digest, Cozycot, and more. We can only imagine that her $12 million bungalow is just the tip of the iceberg.

3. Olivia Lum

Currently the group president and CEO of Hyflux Ltd - the company that runs Singapore's largest membrane-based seawater desalination facility - Olivia Lum seems an unlikely protagonist of a rags-to-riches story.

She fought as an underdog as the adopted daughter of an illiterate mother, astounding her teachers and peers with her fighting spirit and her knack for business. She was forced to be the sole breadwinner of her family at the age of 9, and at 16, headed to Perak, Malaysia for further studies with only $15 in her pocket.

Never one to be afraid of taking risks, Lum sold her apartment and car after leaving her comfortable position in Glaxo Pharmaceuticals at the age of 26. With $20,000 from her sales, she founded Hydrochem (S) Pte Ltd in 1989; it would eventually become the Hyflux of today.

In 2011, and at the age of 50, Lum was listed on Forbes as Singapore's 27th richest person with a wealth estimated at $460 million.

Never one to be afraid of taking risks, she sold her apartment and car after leaving her comfortable position in Glaxo Pharmaceuticals at the age of 26.

With $20,000 from her sales, she founded Hydrochem (S) Pte Ltd in 1989; it would eventually become the Hyflux of today.

In 2011, and at the age of 50, Lum was listed on Forbes as Singapore's 27th richest person with a wealth estimated at $460 million.

4. Wendy Kwek

It is hard to believe that this multimillionaire escaped the chains of bankruptcy. After getting retrenched at age 29, Wendy Kwek accumulated $100,000 of debt in just four months.

She shared with HerWorld Plus of her divorce, and how her friends distanced themselves from her. She had no choice but to move back to her parents' apartment.

Yet, she managed to clear off all her debt in less than a year, due to her strategic business acumen and determination for a new start.

She believes education is a vital asset to any woman, and has made organising motivational events and seminars one of her core businesses to prove it. This earned her the prestigious Asia Pacific Brands Awards as Singapore's Finest in 2014.

Apart from her events company, she is also credited with establishing the largest property investment network in Singapore (known as WK Investment Network), which helps the average Singaporean create wealth through property investments.

5. Claire Chiang

With experience as a Sociology tutor, president of Aware, senior Vice-president and founder of Banyan Tree Holdings, president of Society Against Family Violence, nominated member of Parliament and only one of two women admitted into the council of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce Industry, Claire Chiang is definitely a force to be reckoned with in a patriarchal society.

She grew up in a household that was not well-to-do, and in a period of social turmoil that came about as a result of the 1964 racial riots, maintained good relations with her neighbours as part of a multi-ethnic community.

Her parents were her role models: her father was kind-hearted and helped the less fortunate despite their financial circumstances, while her mother pushed her children to maximise their potential as she herself fought an onslaught of illnesses.

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