More can be done to support vulnerable women: Grace Fu

Although Singapore has been ranked as the best place in Asia to be a mother, there are groups that still need more support, said People's Action Party (PAP) Women's Wing chairman Grace Fu yesterday.

These groups include vulnerable women, single mothers, foreign spouses and older women.

"We want to improve the well-being of those who are in need of more support," said Ms Fu, speaking at the Women's Wing's 25th anniversary celebrations.

An annual report by international charity Save The Children ranked Singapore as the best place in Asia to be a mother, and 15th in the world.

But there is still work to be done, for example in strengthening preventive and early intervention measures for at-risk families, said Ms Fu, and she hopes the Women's Wing can lend its support.

It can be difficult for single mothers to chase down former husbands to pay maintenance. Foreign women who are financially dependent on their local husbands also suffer if the marriage does not turn out well.

More older women will be living alone as life expectancies and family structures change.

"We want to help empower them and tap their energy to contribute back to society," Ms Fu said.

She also called for women to have greater representation in leadership positions here.

Representation in the judiciary and civil service is above average.

About one in five directorships in statutory boards is held by a woman, compared with 12 per cent among businesses in industrialised markets, she noted.

Women also make up a quarter of Parliament and comprised nearly one-third of permanent secretaries and 45 per cent of Supreme Court and State Court judges last year.

But only 8 per cent of directorships in listed companies are held by women, and nearly three in five listed companies here have all-male boards, she said.

Typically, only those who become directors by age 35 are picked for talent development programmes, so women who prioritise their family and slow down in their careers before then could miss out.

"Only when you have more women leaders sitting in the boardroom will you have the chief executive's attention on developing talented women and implementing women-friendly policies in the company," Ms Fu said, speaking at the PAP Headquarters.

"A more enlightened management typically makes better companies."

This article was first published on Aug 24, 2014.
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