Interview of Deryne Sim from Pink Dot Singapour
First and foremost, a huge thank you for accepting to have this interview for the ‘Odyssey for equality’ global project. It's an honour for us to welcome you within the project newsletter. To start with, in order to know more about Deryne, could you tell us more about your academic and professional background?
I am a lawyer by training. I have about 12 years of legal experience, 4 of which is in litigation and 8 as an in-house lawyer in US media networks.
I obtained my Bachelor of Laws degree at the National University of Singapore in 2008. In 2019, I was awarded the Chevening Scholarship by the UK government and enrolled at the University of Edinburgh for a Master of Laws in Technology, Innovation and the Law. Recently, I was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship by the US government and will be pursuing a Master of Laws in Gender and Sexuality at the University of California, Los Angeles in August 2021.
Before joining a company, do you take into account its LGBTIQA+ inclusion engagements?
Yes, I do. Many companies in Singapore, especially the local law firms, have not embarked on any LGBTQIA+ inclusion activities. As long as the company, its C-suite business leaders and the hiring manager are not homophobic or transphobic, I am willing to work for them, because I see it as an opportunity to drive change from within. If any of these stakeholders are not LGBTQIA+ inclusive, I will not apply for a role in that company.
You are a member of « Pink Dot SG » can you tell us more about this group and its actions?
Pink Dot SG is a non-governmental organisation that supports the Freedom to Love. Since 2009 and except from 2020, we have organised an annual outdoor rally at the Speaker’s Corner at Hong Lim Park in support of LGBTQIA+ rights. On that day, we will have performances, speeches and exhibitions. The idea is simple -- if you support LGBTQIA+ rights, you will wear pink and turn up at the Speaker’s Corner. At the end of the event, we will ask everyone to huddle together and take an aerial photograph. The growing size of the dot symbolises the growing acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people in Singapore.
In addition to the annual outdoor rally, Pink Dot SG organises workplace inclusion events, engages with policymakers and engages in advocacy at an international level, such as in the Universal Periodic Review process.
LGBTIQA+ organizations can not be funded anymore by multi-nationals since 2016 in Singapore. Therefore, PinkDot Singapore had to look for local SME to fund them. Could you please tell us what the challenges were to reach SME? and how did you overcome these challenges? How did you succeed in attracting SME?
The main challenge that we faced was that the SMEs were worried about being associated with Pink Dot SG; SMEs have much smaller budgets as compared to MNCs; and SMEs were less aware about LGBTQIA+ issues in Singapore.
We addressed these issues by assuring SMEs that it was completely legal for them to sponsor Pink Dot SG and highlighted statements on the same made by the Law Minister, reduced the sponsorship tiers to amounts that SMEs were comfortable with and appointed local business champions to spread the word about Pink Dot SG. Our efforts paid off and we attract close to 120 SME sponsors each year.
You currently live in Singapore. How would you describe the workplace condition for TG (transgender) and GNC (gender non conforming) in the Singaporean workplace? And what are the biggest obstacles or barriers that TG and GNC folks encounter?
The biggest barriers that TG and GNC people face in employment are a lack of understanding on LGBTQIA+ issues by employers and the lack of protection under the law. Due to media regulations which prohibit the positive portrayals of LGBTQIA+ characters or issues in mainstream media, there are a lot of misconceptions about the LGBTQIA+ community among Singaporeans.
As a result of this lack of understanding and because sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected characteristics under the Singapore Constitution or labour laws, TG and GNC people are routinely discriminated against in the workplace. In a 2019 study by Curtin University and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network found that cisgender applicants received a whopping 81.5% more positive responses to job applications than transgender applicants.
Pink Dot SG and other NGOs have called for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics under the law on many occasions, but the law remains unchanged.
Your team in the project ‘Odyssey for Equality’ is addressing the following question : How to improve the workplace for TG (transgender) and GNC (gender non conforming) for the next ten years? Can you tell us how you have heard of this project? The workshops just started one month ago. What’s your feedback up to now regarding this experience?
I was informed about this project by Fabrice Houdart, the Managing Director of Global Equality Initiatives at OutLeadership. It has been a very interesting and rewarding experience being part of this project and I am truly grateful to be able to take part in discussion sessions with advocates from NGOs and companies who have so much more experience in dealing with trans issues.
According to you, why should a company hire and engage with the LGBTIQA+ talents ?
Simply because it is the right thing to do! Someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity has absolutely no impact on their ability to carry out their work, so employers should not discriminate against them on this basis. Further, LGBTQIA+ employees bring their own unique worldview and experiences into the workplace and help companies ensure that their products and services are inclusive towards LGBTQIA+ customers.
And if you had a magic stick, tell us 1 thing you would like to be changed by 2031 for a better inclusion of LGBTIQA+ person in the workplace?
I hope that this magic wand is very powerful because my wish is that by 2031, every employee must volunteer for a minimum period of 2 years with a LGBTQIA+ NGO in order to be considered for a promotion to managerial roles. This will help them understand the issues that LGBTQIA+ employees face and also dispel the misconceptions that they might have towards the community.
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