Singaporean women have made great strides, but more can still be done: PAP Women's Wing

SINGAPORE - With the foresight of Singapore's pioneer leaders, women here have made great strides over the past 50 years, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu on Saturday.

Founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, among other leaders, was astute to the importance of women in society, and had laid a robust foundation to protect their rights and welfare, said Ms Fu, who chairs the People's Action Party Women's Wing.

But more can be done, she added, as she called on her group to improve the well-being of women in need, support women to fulfil their career and family aspirations, and help women plan for their retirement.

Speaking to more than 330 women activists and female Members of Parliament at the group's third annual conference, she said women now enjoy equal opportunities in education, support to pursue career and family aspirations, and also making their mark across professions here and abroad.

"We have contributed to all aspects of Singapore's development - at home, in businesses, science and the arts, and in the security of our nation, and will continue to do so in the years ahead," she said.

Ms Fu added that the policy recommendations developed by the PAP Women's Wing in the past few years have seen results.

The Government has introduced paternity leave, for example, responding to the group's call for shared parental leave to encourage men to take on a greater share of parental responsibilities, she said.

She pledged that the group would continue to focus on advocacy, so "the voices of women from all walks of life are heard", and urged its members to focus on three key areas in the coming years.

On women in need, Ms Fu noted the importance of empowering those in the low-income by strengthening early intervention measures for at-risk families, to complement available social assistance schemes. She also emphasised the need to provide more support for single parents, many of whom are single due to divorce.

Meanwhile, to help women realise their career and family aspirations, Ms Fu said men should be urged to pick up more parental responsibilities at home, and employers to recognise "progressive work practices" like flexi-work arrangements.

Noting that only 8.8 per cent of directorships in listed companies are women, she stressed the need for more representation of women in leadership roles, to "help us to better leverage the breadth and depth of talent available".

And on retirement adequacy, Ms Fu called on the group to actively reach out to homemakers and take advantage of programmes such as SkillsFuture, which promotes life-long upgrading of skills.

Also, the Women's Wing on Saturday launched a new public education programme, called Top Up With Love, to help improve financial literacy and raise awareness of schemes under the Central Provident Fund.

"As members of the PAP Women's Wing, we play a crucial role in mobilising women to help other Singaporean women reach their full potential," said Ms Fu at the even held at the Grand Park City Hall Hotel.

"Let us continue to forge the path forward to maximise opportunities for women, ensure their perspectives are heard, and leverage their unique talents to build an even better Singapore."

waltsim@sph.com.sg