Employers must do more to reduce work-family trade-off for women: Grace Fu

Society has to stay attuned to the changing aspirations and needs of its women today, many of who aspire to combine work and family, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu said on Wednesday, at the launch of a book on Singapore through wome
Society has to stay attuned to the changing aspirations and needs of its women today, many of who aspire to combine work and family, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu said on Wednesday, at the launch of a book on Singapore through women's perspectives. -- ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

SINGAPORE - In fields as varied as business, sports and even the uniformed services, women in Singapore have achieved success since independence 50 years ago, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu said on Wednesday, at the launch of a book on Singapore through women's perspectives.

"Singaporean women have seized opportunities, stepped up and succeeded through merit and sheer hard work," she said, citing role models such as Singapore's first "Golden Girl" Patricia Chan, a national swimmer who bagged a gold in all the 39 events that she competed in at the Southeast Asian Pensinsula Games from 1965 to 1973.

But society has to stay attuned to the changing aspirations and needs of its women today, said Ms Fu, who is also Second Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as for the Environment and Water Resources.

"Young Singaporean women aspire to combine work and family," she said. "Yet, many feel that they have to make difficult choices between family and work."

Women make up more than 80 per cent of economically inactive residents in the prime age group of 25 to 54. Of these, 80 per cent said they are not working because of family responsibilities, she said.

While fathers have been stepping up to share greater responsibility at home, employers also need to recognise that progressive work practices such as flexiwork arrangements make good business sense, said Ms Fu.

"A key success factor is to nurture a supportive work culture where there is mutual trust and understanding between colleagues and supervisors - that it is the quality of work that matters, and not 'face time'," she said.

"With support from family members, employers and the community, I hope more women can find fulfilment at work and at home."

The book she launched on Wednesday, titled Our Lives To Live, is penned by three generations of women writers, from academics to activists to pioneer achievers.

It is edited by Dr Kanwaljit Soin, an orthopaedic surgeon and former Nominated MP, and Ms Margaret Thomas, a media industry veteran. Both are known for championing women's issues.

The book will be on sale for $37 (excluding GST) at Kinokuniya from Wednesday and at other bookstores later.