Employers' HR policies should not work against women: Ong Ye Kung

Office workers in the central business district at Raffles Place, on Feb 23, 2016.
Office workers in the central business district at Raffles Place, on Feb 23, 2016. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Employers must ensure that human resource policies and practices do not work against women, said Acting Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung.

Mr Ong spoke about the growing role of women in society at an exhibition and seminar promoting lifelong learning among women on Sunday (March 20).

More women today face dilemmas and challenges in juggling their family and career responsibilities, he said at the event at the Lifelong Learning Institute.

"All of us - men, women, society at large - have a duty to help women to juggle competing responsibilities," he said.

He noted that job listings for high-level assignments or senior leadership positions tend to ask for candidates who are assertive, outgoing, results-focused and dynamic.

"We need to also value qualities such as being nurturing, to have empathy, patience and thoughtfulness," he said.

He also urged organisations to look for fairer criteria in evaluating a person's capabilities and contributions. They should not put an age requirement in career development schemes as this may disadvantage those who took time off to start a family, he said.

In his 15-minute speech, he noted that women all over the world have been making great strides in leadership, citing South Korean president Park Geun-hye and the chief executive of General Motors Mary Barra as examples.

In Singapore, more women are advancing in their career and professional roles, and more are joining the military, said Mr Ong, who is also Senior Minister of State for Defence.

The labour participation rate for women aged 25 to 64 is about 72 per cent today. Though lower than that of men - which is about 80 per cent - it is high by international standards, he added.

In politics, the number of elected MPs who are women has doubled since the early 2000s to 22 now, he said. Both the Speaker of Parliament - Madam Halimah Yacob - and Leader of the House - Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu - are women.

"In Singapore, we are a great respecter of women. We place great emphasis on education and development because people are our capital," said Mr Ong. "That is really the only reason such a tiny country gets to play on the world stage."

He also paid tribute to the late Mrs Lee Kuan Yew for being a key advocate of Singaporean women's rights, noting that she and other political activists had put their ideas into the landmark 1961 Women's Charter, which is still in place today to protect Singaporean women against physical abuse.

More than 500 women visited the exhibition organised by the People's Association Women's Integration Network Council. It featured booths by 11 SkillsFuture training providers and was aimed at raising awareness on the options and grants available to help them make better use of their SkillsFuture credits.