“Gender Inequality Is A Huge Topic… It Is A Journey Of Constant Effort.” — Harpreet Bedi

As the chapter chair of the Singapore Lion City chapter in the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) as well as the CEO and Legal Counsel at The Garcha Group of Hotels and Real Estate, Harpreet Bedi knows a little something about women fighting for equality in high-powered environments.

“Gender Inequality Is A Huge Topic… It Is A Journey Of Constant Effort.” — Harpreet Bedi
Harpreet Bedi, Chapter Chair of Singapore Lion City, Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO); CEO and Legal Counsel at Garcha Group of Hotels and Real Estate

Harpreet Bedi wants to empower women to fight for equality in terms of financial freedom, independence, self-worth, drive and opportunities. After taking over as chairperson of the Singapore Lion City chapter in YPO, she made it the first gender-equal chapter in the world. In 2020, she will partner with United Nations (UN) Women on events to enable women to learn and grow.

Her first mission at Singapore Lion City was to make it the first gender-equal chapter among 460 worldwide

“YPO is the premier leadership organisation for 28,000 CEOs worldwide. After attending its events for two years as a member’s spouse, I felt that spouses were treated as secondary despite being touted as essential. Last year, after taking over from my husband Satinder Garcha — he launched the Singapore chapter in 2018 — I decided to bring about change. All 45 members unanimously agreed to amend our constitution to give all spouses (mostly women) equal voting rights and equal access to forums.”

She’s collaborating with UN Women to extend the reach of its HeForShe movement

“I am passionate about women’s issues. So I got together with a friend, Karen Kranenburg, who runs a global polo sports marketing company, to organise an event in collaboration with UN Women. This focuses on its HeForShe movement, which seeks gender equality and empowers women while engaging men as part of the bigger conversation. Our event highlights gender equality in sport and takes place at Singapore Polo Club on 24 October. We chose polo because it is a genderneutral sport where men and women, professionals and amateurs, play together at the highest levels. It’s a sport Karen and I used to play and my husband still plays.”

She’s funded bioethics research and helps run The Garcha Group of hotels and real estate properties while co-parenting four children

“I have always advocated for refugees’ and women’s rights. Despite being inordinately busy, I try to make time to help uplift the disenfranchised. In 2012, I founded Belris (Bioethics Legal Research In Singapore) after completing my medical law degree. I had envisaged Belris as the foremost think tank, hosting forums on bioethics research and collaborative dialogues to change the legislation around prohibited reproductive treatments and technologies in Singapore. It was an independent, non-profit group that promoted and funded these engagements. I shut it in 2016, as my husband was trying to recover from a serious injury, and I had to take over the group business.”

She likens gender equality to a journey

“Gender inequality is a huge topic. Instead of giving numbers, I’d ask everyone to stop and think of your mother, sister, daughter, father, brother and son. Do you know anyone who you feel doesn’t have an ‘equal’ relationship with regards to finances, independence, self-worth, drive and opportunities? The cause will not be resolved in 2020 or in our lifetime; it is a journey of constant effort.”

This story is part of a series on Singapore’s modern visionaries. To read others in the series, click here.

This story first appeared in the January/February issue of A Magazine.

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