Do more to pursue gender equality

Ms Janice Tai's commentary on Thursday ("Reality check in gender equality") stated that "giving a divorced woman maintenance is a way of levelling the playing field for her in a system that devalues her non-market contributions to the marriage".

While existing divorce laws are important for women who do need it, this creates a confused vision of the place of women vis-a-vis men in our society. Are women always expected to be the first in a marriage to leave their employment to stay at home?

In the 2014 Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum, Singapore lags behind in terms of labour force participation of women, the 72nd out of 142 countries.

Rwanda, on the other hand, ranks third in this important issue concerning women's role in society.

This could be attributed to the fact that, as Ms Tai mentioned, in Singapore, "the burden of care for children and the elderly still falls largely on the shoulders of women".

An earlier commentary on March 8 ("Five gender gaps S'pore women still face in 2015") reported that "although a roughly equal number of women enter tertiary institutions as men, there is a fall-off of employed women in their 30s because of child-rearing and caregiving".

Therefore, there is a need to look at how the market and our Asian values-based society determine the destiny of women in the workplace.

There is a need to look into this issue because women provide a different perspective and introduce diverse ideas into the boardroom and in politics.

How can we create the conditions to encourage more women to enter politics, enhancing the political empowerment of women, for which Singapore currently ranks 90th?

Women in politics and leadership positions provide role models to increase the aspirations and educational attainment of teenage girls. Rwanda currently ranks first in the world for the Women in Parliament category, with 64 per cent of its Parliament made up of women.

Thus, even as we continue to pursue gender equality, it is important to acknowledge that 25 years ago, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said: "It is not possible to have a man continue to treat his marriage as if a wife's role is the same as that in his mother's generation... Wives cannot alone carry the burdens of managing the home and bringing up the children." ("Men's attitudes as husbands, fathers must change: PM"; July 2, 1990).

Michelle Djong Hui Ing (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'Do more to pursue gender equality'. Print Edition | Subscribe