Yes, this minister does the ironing and windows at home too

Mr Tan believes in equality at home, saying men need to step up as marriage and parenthood are a partnership.
Mr Tan believes in equality at home, saying men need to step up as marriage and parenthood are a partnership.ST FILE PHOTO

The Minister for Social and Family Development does not employ any domestic help at home.

Even with his busy schedule, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin chips in to help with ironing clothes, washing dishes and cleaning windows.

"I was trained in the military and my earlier training was in the United Kingdom, where we had a lot of uniforms to iron. And there's an inspection every day, so you had to make sure your ironing is crisp," he said yesterday, admitting that "cleaning windows is quite tiring".

The father of two teenagers, who will turn 15 and 19 this year, was responding to questions from Chinese TV personality Yang Lan at the International Women's Forum, a two-day conference on diversity in an increasingly splintered world.

The Singapore chapter of the forum, which marks its 20th anniversary, is a non- profit organisation whose members include women leaders in business, public service and the arts. It is part of the International Women's Forum, an organisation of 76 forums in 35 countries.

Mr Tan, 48, was quizzed on issues ranging from women's representation in boardrooms to fathers playing a more active role at home.

"I think men need to step up as it's a partnership." There is a significant impact on children and marriage when fathers are present at home and, conversely, absent fathers are a "recurring theme" in many social issues that crop up, he said.

Fathers who pull their weight at home can also change the way that men view women as talent and as co-workers, he added. He said Singapore has done well for women in some areas - for instance, in keeping the streets safe - but still has "a lot of room" for improvement.

Calling the rate of women's representation in boardrooms here as "really quite abysmal", he added: "It has improved from before... but, frankly, it is not good. Our neighbouring countries are doing better than us."

The Diversity Action Committee (DAC) last year released data showing that women held 9.7 per cent of board seats in Singapore-listed companies as at end-May last year, up from 9.1 per cent the previous year.

But Mr Tan said it was unlikely that a quota would be mandated by the Government as a cultural change was better in such matters.

But it will take up the DAC's suggestion to review the Code of Corporate Governance to require companies to disclose their diversity policies and track their progress towards meeting self-set targets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2017, with the headline 'Yes, this minister does the ironing and windows at home too'. Subscribe