September 9th, 2014

Have more women in leadership roles? Govt can set example

By Jolene Tan, Programmes and Communications Senior Manager, Aware

At the recent Singapore Institute of Directors Directors’ Conference, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu urged businesses to include more women in their leadership, even highlighting the names of Singapore-listed companies with no female directors (“Call for capitalism that gives back”; last Thursday).

She also stated that the Government is open to the possibility of imposing a quota for female directors.

We are heartened to see that the need for women in organisational leadership is taken seriously at the highest levels of the Government.

Employers may exclude women from leadership positions for a range of reasons – from poor search processes that rely on “old boys’ networks”, to structural failures to accommodate caregiving, to explicit prejudice.

But businesses that do not include women at the highest levels are depriving themselves of the benefits of a broad talent pool and a wide range of perspectives and experiences.

SG parliamentWe believe that the Government has a valuable opportunity to lead the way by increasing the number of women at the highest levels of political leadership – setting a positive example for businesses and other employers to follow.

At the moment, Ms Fu herself is the only female full minister in a Cabinet of 18 individuals.

No full woman minister has ever had her own ministry. The low levels of women in political leadership drag down Singapore’s position in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report, where we consistently rank significantly more highly for women’s economic than political participation.

The need for senior women is especially urgent in the political arena. Our representatives in government need to reflect the wide array of perspectives and experiences that make up our population, to ensure that all our interests are better represented.

Women’s perspectives are by no means uniform. And the Cabinet can never completely reflect every walk of life – politicians must also take the time and effort to understand the experiences of those whose situations differ from theirs.

But increasing women’s representation at the top would signal an important commitment by the Government to promoting truly inclusive leadership.

This letter was first published in the Straits Times Forum on 8 September 2014.

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