It’s easy to feel a little lost the moment you join the perfumed crowd of vivacious, air-kissing women at Raffles Hotel’s chandelier-bedecked ballroom, where Her World‘s 2005 Woman of the Year gala dinner was held on March 1.

Everywhere you turn, friends are clasping each other’s arms warmly and catching up on happenings at work and home. Gathered in loose knots here and there are well-known names like Raffles Holdings’ president and CEO Jennie Chua, 2002 Young Woman Achiever Elim Chew and 1997 Woman of the Year Elizabeth Sam.

From left: SPH Magazines CEO David Tay, SPH Chairman Arthur Seet, Woman of the year Euleen Goh, Young Woman Achiever Theresa Goh, Dr Ng Eng Hen & SPH CEO Alan Chan

But it isn’t difficult to be accepted into this exclusive fraternity of high-powered women. Before you have too much time to dwell on your own inadequacy, you’re roped into their conversations. After 10 minutes, you’re stuffing namecards into the crevices of your tiny evening bag.

Even if you do not feel intimidated by the company, rest assured you are not alone.

In her acceptance speech that evening, 2005’s Woman of the Year, Standard Chartered Bank’s ex-CEO Euleen Goh, confessed to being a little awed to be singled out. “I’m standing among giants,” she said.

“I had to read the letter informing me that I had won the award several times just to make sure it was not an invitation to the event,” she quipped.

Aspiring networkers can take a lesson in how to mingle from 2005 Young Woman Achiever Theresa Goh, who gabbed with ministers and strangers with calm aplomb.

“Everyone’s here to be with friends and make new ones. There’s nothing intimidating about that,” she pointed out wisely before continuing with a naughty twinkle in her eye. “Look out for my speech, because I’m planning to make my mum’s mascara run.”

Paralympic swimmer and Young Woman Achiever winner Theresa Goh

Paralympic swimmer and Young Woman Achiever winner Theresa Goh

Instead, it was the disabled athlete who ended up a little choked on stage as she thanked her parents for their support over the years in the face of tremendous odds. Her mum’s mascara stayed dry but she made her grandma cry. Theresa and Euleen took home the Carl F Bucherer watches sponsored by The Hour Glass as part of their award.

Indeed, it’s women like Theresa’s mum, Rose, for whom the award was created, declared Simon Tay, the chairman of the award’s panel of judges.

“When we celebrate the extraordinary achievements, we should never relegate the achievements that many women do, as if these were easy or under-achievements,” he said. “When we celebrate this Woman of the Year, it is an event to really celebrate all women.”

To underscore his point, Minister for Manpower Dr Ng Eng Hen not only applauded Euleen and Theresa but also gave kudos to all women when he acknowledged that “a successful woman has to juggle multiple goals to complete her studies, do well in her job and be expected to raise a family and fulfil the traditional roles of mother and daughter.”

It’s no wonder then that, as SPH Magazines CEO David Tay noted, “Singaporean women are making their mark not just locally but the world over. Many have overtaken the men in terms of business acumen and high earning power and they make up some of the top players in Singapore’s industries.”

With more women becoming more capable than ever, he predicted that the search for the Woman of the Year will only become tougher.

In between glowing speeches, guests tucked into the fusion fare like cod fillet poached in wasabi. Laughter pealed as women played musical tables, catching up with their gal pals scattered across the ballroom.

Everyone enjoyed themselves so much that many lingered over coffee before collecting their goodie bags stuffed full of Cle de Peau products.

“It was the perfect opportunity for me to catch up with old friends,” said Tricia Ng, past president of the Singapore Business and Professional Women’s Association as she fondly squeezed the arm of her old friend, Evelyn Leong-Chan, the managing director of Bugis Street Development.

Looks like we’ll just have to throw another party next year!