1. A very good morning to everyone. On behalf of my fellow co-Chairs MOS Low Yen Ling and Parliamentary Secretary Rahayu Mahzam, I would like to extend a warm welcome to Prime Minister and all of you to the Closing Session of our Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development.
2. Many of you here have partnered us in the last year, organizing or participating in our conversations and focus group discussions, and sharing with us insights and recommendations on how to further the progress of Singapore women.
3. Your active involvement reflected the importance you placed on ensuring that women continue to progress in Singapore and your desire to bring the whole of society together to contribute to this effort.
4. I would like to specially thank our key partners: the Singapore Council for Women’s Organisations, NTUC Women and Family Unit and the People’s Association Women’s Integration Network Council.
a. Together with them, we have organised 160 conversations involving over 5,700 participants from all walks of life. MOS Yen Ling, Parl Sec Rahayu, many of our colleagues in Government, and our fellow MPs and myself have attended these conversations and listened to your feedback and recommendations.
b. We thank every participant for your contribution and feedback and also your willingness to step forward to empower, protect and uplift our women.
5. The PAP Government has made great efforts since our early founding years as a nation to ensure the basic rights of women, and to equip them so that they were literate, could be unshackled from domestic burdens, pursue their aspirations and become financially independent.
6. Our women have progressed far since then and are now in a new phase of development. Many of them are in the workforce, but they desire fairer opportunities, want to be supported in their career aspirations and, to be able to better juggle competing demands for their time and energies.
Key Themes from Conversations
7. I would now like to share five key themes that came up most often in our Conversations.
8. First, Singaporeans expressed their hopes for more equal opportunities at the workplace, where women are given more support in pursuing their career aspirations.
a. In a survey we conducted with about 2,000 respondents, over 1 in 4 Singapore Residents surveyed felt that men were given preferential treatment in terms of pay, job openings and promotions.
i. A participant said: “Job interviewers often raise the question of whether women interviewees … plan to get pregnant and start families.”
b. This theme of having equal opportunities in the workplace represents about 37% of the feedback from our 160 conversations, with several participants expressing:
i. a strong desire to tackle workplace discrimination in terms of hiring and promotions;
ii. hopes for enhanced support to encourage women to remain in or re-enter the workforce, such as through Flexible Work Arrangements;
iii. to see greater female representation in leadership roles.
9. Second, Singaporeans value the selfless contributions of caregivers to their families and expressed a desire for more support for caregivers, many of whom are women.
a. Our survey showed that women in dual-income households were five times more likely than men to be managing housework and caregiving responsibilities. Women were also nearly four times more likely to have left their jobs for caregiving compared to men.
b. In our conversations, about 21% of our feedback centred around a desire to have better support for caregivers. Participants shared a desire to:
i. encourage more equal sharing of caregiving responsibilities at home; and
ii. have more community support, resources, and financial support for caregivers.
10. Third, Singaporeans shared their hopes for enhanced protection for women and for respect to form the foundation of the relationship between women and men. This represents about 16% of feedback. Participants discussed ways to:
a. Impart the value of respect to our children at home and in schools;
b. Improve support for victims of hurt and sexual offences; and also to
c. Raise awareness and better address issues of sexual harassment, family violence, workplace harassment and online harms.
11. Fourth, Singaporeans aspired to (and I quote) “have a bigger kampong to provide support” for vulnerable groups of women, such as single mothers, divorcees, and women from lower income families. This represents about 7% of our feedback. Some suggestions include:
a. Strengthening support systems;
b. Raising awareness and accessibility of available resources to support these vulnerable women.
12. Last, but most importantly, Singaporeans recognized that a whole-of-society effort is needed to shift our mindsets and overcome stereotypes about gender roles. This represents about 20% of feedback.
a. A participant said, “Everyone can play a part, and this includes (the) Government, private sector, schools, non-profit organisations, businesses (and many more)”.
b. Another said, “Breaking stereotypes is hard to achieve, but not impossible. When there is a conscious effort to cultivate role models and celebrate (progress), little by little, changes will snowball into a new normal.”
Next Steps & Conclusion
13. Today marks the closing of the Conversations phase, and the beginning of our next lap together.
a. We have started studying the wealth of feedback available to us and received.
b. The Prime Minister will share the Government’s thinking on some of the key themes in his keynote speech later.
c. The White Paper, which will incorporate feedback and recommendations, will be presented to Parliament in early 2022.
d. In the meantime, we welcome more to join us in celebrating SG Women . Let us join hands to build an inclusive society where men and women are supported to reach their fullest potential.
14. Thank you.