Parliament: Servicewomen have taken up key positions in the SAF, says Ng Eng Hen

 Then Colonel Gan Siow Huang receiving her certificate of promotion from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, making her the first woman general in Singapore, at Mindef on June 26, 2015.
Then Colonel Gan Siow Huang receiving her certificate of promotion from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, making her the first woman general in Singapore, at Mindef on June 26, 2015. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Career soldiers in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are appointed and promoted based on the principle of "best person for the job", Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Monday.

It is meritocratic process regardless of gender, race and religion, Dr Ng said in Parliament.

He was responding to a question from Ms Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC) about whether the SAF has provided adequate opportunities for women to participate and excel in their military careers. She also wanted to know what impact women have made on Singapore's defence.

Dr Ng replied that servicewomen have made good progress across all career schemes, adding that they have served in elite units, like becoming naval divers and fighter pilots.

A "good number" have also risen to take up key positions such as department heads, battalion commanders, brigade commanders, and division sergeant majors, said Dr Ng.

He cited Senior Warrant Officer Jennifer Tan, the first woman Division Sergeant Major, and the Central Manpower Base's former commander Karen Tan, who was the first woman to be promoted to the rank of Colonel . In July 1, Brigadier-General Gan Siow Huang, the head of Air Intelligence and director (Special Projects), became the first woman to get her one-star rank.

Today, there are 1,500 uniformed servicewomen, comprising about 7 per cent of regulars in the army, navy and air force.

He added that while the Defence Ministry and SAF remain committed to provide a challenging and fulfilling career for its regulars, it also supports people's life-cycle needs.

In line with national workforce policies, the SAF's human resource policies have progressed over time to flexibly accommodate and support the needs of its servicemen and women, like when they get married or when they become parents.

Dr Ng told the House that SAF human resource practices are in line with international agreements that Singapore is party to, such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.