Open letter to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,
I write as the Executive Director of AWARE, to offer my congratulations on your recent impressive success at the ballot box. It was a very intense and hard-fought election, and I am sure you must be heartened by the PAP’s strong results.
As you proceed with Cabinet appointments, I urge you to be mindful of gender equality in the selection of Ministers. With an electoral slate that was 22% women – all of whom won – you have numerous competent female candidates for leadership roles.
I hope that you will form a Cabinet where at least 22% of the full Ministers are women, and that those women are given their own portfolios, where their individual contributions can be more easily distinguished. 22% is a very modest and achievable figure, given that the citizen population of Singapore at large is 50% women.
This is not a question of mere form. The gender composition of our political leadership profoundly affects its ability to truly represent the people of Singapore and their interests. Gender has a deep impact on our lives – for instance, women face far more pressure to provide unpaid care for their families, with significant implications for their social and economic positions.
While men can and should advocate for women, a disproportionately male-dominated Cabinet is badly placed to consistently and meaningfully integrate women’s experiences into its policy deliberations.
Increasing the proportion of women in Cabinet will also help Singapore to better meet its international obligations under the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Moreover, it sets the tone for women’s advancement in other arenas. Ms Grace Fu has urged businesses to increase women’s representation on corporate boards – with women currently making up only 8% of boards of SGX-listed companies. If the government takes the lead by appointing more women as Ministers, this will do much to normalise the idea of women in leadership, with positive effects on the rest of society.
Lately there has been much discussion of succession and renewal. It is widely reported that a number of new MPs will be appointed to the Cabinet, to give relatively junior figures the time and experience needed to develop into confident leaders. We applaud this far-sighted approach toward mentoring the leaders of future, and we hope that you will not exclude women from this process and these opportunities.
Thank you for your time and your kind attention, and my congratulations once more.