SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Saturday (Sept 14) that he hopes the People's Action Party (PAP) can persuade more women to join the party and stand for elections.
"Our MPs, both past and present, have very demanding loads. As a male MP, I find it heavy-going, but when I see our women MPs, they have it even heavier because they have to juggle many more roles," he said.
This is a testament to the "obvious" quality of Singapore's female leadership, he added.
"It is a big commitment, and when many of them also have to look after kids, it's not easy."
Mr Heng also pointed out that several MPs continued to serve despite being pregnant, including Ms Sim Ann (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson), Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC).
He was speaking at a panel discussion at Orchard Hotel during the annual PAP Women's Wing conference where he was the guest of honour.
Mr Heng said that Singapore has made much progress in advancing women's rights and opportunities, and that he would like to see more women in leadership roles.
In 1989, when the PAP Women's Wing was founded, there were only four female MPs in Parliament. There are now 20 female MPs, including eight political office holders and three full ministers, Mr Heng said.
He added that Singapore also has a female president, Madam Halimah Yacob.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, who was also on the panel, said this shows that the abilities of women in Singapore have become increasingly recognised in various fields, including politics.
Mrs Teo, who chairs the PAP Women's Wing, noted that the party has fielded more women in every successive election.
"With so many more outstanding women who are willing to give of themselves to help Singapore advance, I'm very hopeful," she added.
The panel, moderated by Ms Wong Su-Yen, chief executive of consultancy Bronze Phoenix, also discussed other issues such as the gender pay gap.
Mrs Teo said the gap is the result of the fact that there are fewer women in senior leadership positions.
"It depends on the kind of work they are asked to do. If the work they are asked to do has a higher value, they are able to draw a higher pay."
In the public sector, the median pay for women is about the same or even, in some sectors, higher than for men, said Mrs Teo.
"If women are able to pursue any profession or occupation they wish, this gap will close over time," she added.
Ms Susan Chong, founder and chief executive of eco-friendly packaging company Greenpac, and Ms Nabillah Jalal, who launched a classical music school for students receiving financial assistance from the Ministry of Education, were also on the panel.