From a single mother’s struggles to juggle work and family commitments to a working mum’s concern over workplace sexism, the challenges Singapore women face are diverse and multi-faceted.
Since September 2020, the government and community partners have held the “Conversations on Singapore Women’s Development” sessions to gather feedback on issues concerning women in the home, workplaces, schools and community.
These Conversations build on the significant progress made by Singapore women, with community and Government support, since our Independence.
For example, policies have been enhanced to better support shared parental responsibility at home, through shared parental leave, paternity leave and paid childcare leave. Policies have also been implemented to support women in the workplace, including flexible work arrangements and the establishment of the Council for Board Diversity, which promotes greater participation of women on the boards of companies, statutory boards and Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs).
The conversations will culminate in a White Paper containing recommendations for further progress towards greater equality between men and women, along with an implementation roadmap. Eleven dialogue sessions involving both men and women participants have been held so far, with many more to come. The Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation (SCWO)’s first Conversation with women leaders covered issues across the home, workplaces, schools and community, while NTUC’s session with union leaders and zoomed in on issues women face at the workplace.
One issue raised at the SCWO session was the needs of single women. Reflecting on this after the session, Ms Lynn Er, honorary treasurer on the SCWO Board and an advisor for the Young Women’s Leadership Connection, said that while the rights of women have collectively advanced, single and unwed parents might have less time and resources to raise their children.
More support networks and caregiving arrangements should be made available to them, whether they decide to work or stay at home, she says. “Giving them the right resources and support means that they are not confined to only one option.”
Family violence was another issue discussed. Lynn noted an increase in reports of abuse globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. MSF also saw an increase in the average number of monthly enquiries to its Adult and Child Protective Services, although the number of cases investigated have remained stable.
Concerns over the harassment of women at workplaces also came up during the dialogue led by NTUC on 12 November.
Ms Pravita D/O Nithiah Nandan, a Young NTUC Committee member and a union leader for the National Transport Workers Union, said ”friends, union members and relatives have shared their personal experiences of workplace harassment [to me]”, noting that female blue-collar workers in male-dominated industries were particularly vulnerable.
When it comes to supporting women in the workplace, Pravita also hopes to see better representation of women in leadership positions. Companies should acknowledge the contributions of women in the workplace, and enroll them in relevant leadership courses such as those organised by NTUC, she says. “This will build their confidence and equip them to attain higher positions in their organisations.”
While there has been significant progress made over the years by women in Singapore, over 100 Conversations will continue into 2021 to further the progress of our women. If you have a story to tell or ideas on how we can address the challenges and mindset changes needed for a more equal society, sign up here.