PM’s new Cabinet

Grace Fu finds place in history with two firsts

Ms Grace Fu will be the first woman to helm a ministry as a full minister and the first woman leader of the House.
Ms Grace Fu will be the first woman to helm a ministry as a full minister and the first woman leader of the House. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

For the first time in Singapore's parliamentary history, a woman will helm a ministry of her own as a full minister.

Ms Grace Fu, 51, will be the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, taking over from Mr Lawrence Wong, who will head the National Development Ministry.

In addition, Ms Fu will be the new leader of the House, the first woman to be given the appointment.

The new government line-up, announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, will also have the highest number of senior women office-holders, following the promotion of Ms Sim Ann to Senior Minister of State.

Ms Sim, 40, will swop her current portfolios for jobs in two ministries: Ms Fu's MCCY and the Finance Ministry. She is now Minister of State for Education as well as Communications and Information. The changes will take effect on Oct 1.

With Ms Sim's promotion, the number of women in the senior ranks of government rises from four to five. Apart from Ms Fu, the other women are Senior Ministers of State Indranee Rajah , 52; Josephine Teo, 47; and Amy Khor, 57.

Both promotions were cheered by Dr Khor, who told The Straits Times they were well-deserved.

"They are, once again, an encouragement and inspiration for women in Singapore," she said.

Ms Fu's promotion is a singular achievement as she will head a ministry of her own in the new five-year term.

Although Mrs Lim Hwee Hua was Singapore's first full woman minister, she was Second Minister for Finance and Transport when she lost her Aljunied GRC seat in the 2011 General Election.

In 1991, Dr Seet Ai Mee had barely taken charge as Acting Minister for Community Development when she lost her Bukit Gombak seat in the general election.

The latest moves, however, do not go far enough in the eyes of women's groups like the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware). Ms Fu's promotion represents progress, but at "a rather leisurely pace", Aware's executive director Corinna Lim said, adding that the number of office-holders remains at six, with Ms Low Yen Ling as parliamentary secretary.

On the other hand, the total number of office-holders has risen by four, to 37. "The under-representation of women in government remains very, very stark... the Government has the capacity to show leadership in making women leadership a strong priority," she said.

Aware was hoping for at least 22 per cent of full ministers in the new Cabinet to be women.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2015, with the headline 'Grace Fu finds place in history with two firsts'. Print Edition | Subscribe