Singapore's approach to gender equality about substance, not quotas: Indranee

Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, said that women have to speak up to effect change.
Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, said that women have to speak up to effect change.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Republic's approach to women empowerment is not about setting gender quotas in boardrooms and schools, but to look at the "substance" of the gender representation.

Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, made the comments at a seminar on Saturday (March 26) on women empowerment organised by Indian beauty and wellness company Rupini's OM.

"You must look at a person's abilities and substance. But if you see that there is a clear gap and that women are not represented, you got to make that extra effort," said Ms Indranee.

"And representation, in our society at least, is not just in terms of gender, you also look at race, you also look at ethnicity, you look at, in some cases where appropriate, religious representation as well."

Ms Indranee was participating in a panel discussion with Bollywood actor R Madhavan, Ms Uma Raja, former director of School Health Services and oncologist See Hui Ti.

Mr Madhavan said sexism starts when boys are conditioned to think that they are better than their sisters. He said: "Out of the 60 films that I've done, I think every role, every film, every heroine has a very important part in my films ... I've actually rejected films because I don't relate to (violence against women)."

To effect change, women have to speak up, said Ms Indranee, who added that woman MPs had successfully pushed for greater state investment in childcare, to allow more women to be able to go out to work.

"In the household, if you've something to say to make a change, it will have a ripple effect. If you're saying something to your friend to advise your friend and help your friend, it will also have a ripple effect," she said.

"So whether you are doing it at an individual level or at a parliamentary level or state level, remember that you can make a difference."

kxinghui@sph.com.sg