Equal opportunities don't always mean equal outcomes

Women should decide what they want, whether in child-rearing or climbing the corporate ladder ("How queen bees and old boys' clubs preserve glass ceilings"; Nov 23, and "To break glass ceilings, tackle family gender norms" by Ms Ethel Tan Hui Yan; Nov 26).

And may the best person win, regardless of gender. We thrive on meritocracy and all start at the same point in education. But we should not confuse equal opportunities with equal outcomes.

Women as a group have not been systematically kept out. They have access to education, which is a proven social leveller. And we salute them when they make it as C-suite executives.

We should not think that boardroom equality can come about only by equal gender representation. There are a myriad of reasons why capable people are inducted to boards. While women may add diversity to views, even enlightening ones, we should not think that by fixing the numbers, we would have better boards.

The glass ceiling, if there is one, will be broken. After all, universal suffrage was not achieved in a day.

But it should not be used as a reason to feel that women are second best. We should not socialise our daughters into thinking that they are less than our sons. And they should still give their best and not expect special treatment in life.

Family gender norms have greatly improved. Our boys learn home economics in school. Men are now given paternal leave on top of time off for mandatory full-time national service and yearly in-camp reservist training. Men are still expected to bring home the bacon.

The pressure is no less great on this side of the fence, which is fast disappearing.

Perhaps, we should be compassionate and seek to understand more than be understood.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Equal opportunities don't always mean equal outcomes'. Print Edition | Subscribe