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Address at Women Entrepreneur Awards 2018 Award Ceremony and Gala Dinner

Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore

Ms Stephanie Cheo, Chairman, Women Entrepreneur Awards

Distinguished WEA Judges

Ladies & Gentlemen

  1. Good evening.
  2. Thank you for inviting me for the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2018 Award Ceremony and Gala Dinner.
  3. For my address, I thought it would be useful to highlight the significant strides women in Singapore have made, not just as entrepreneurs, but across a wider spectrum.
  4. Women in Singapore have shown consistent progress in representation and recognition.
  5. One big factor is the principle and practice of meritocracy. It means that our women and men enjoy equal standing both in school, at work and in society-at-large.
  6. Quite often these days, the biggest cheerleaders for our women are our fathers and brothers, husbands and sons. Even at the workplace, it is not uncommon for successful women to credit their male mentors or co-workers.
  7. We are indeed blessed to be in an environment that recognises our efforts and contributions, not just as a token but with the sense that the recognition was earned. Our women are more highly educated. Literacy is universal, except for a small minority of the older generation. If you go to our polytechnics and universities, you will see many young women doing well.
  8. As you know, I help to look after Population matters especially Marriage and Parenthood. Let me say something about that.
  9. Women’s achievements in school and at work have sometimes made it harder for them to find suitable partners. This is true not just in Singapore but in many places. Some attribute it to traditional thinking where women were expected to marry “upwards”. There is also no longer a stigma to remaining single. As a result, many well qualified women may choose not to marry.
  10. Thankfully, societal norms do adapt. One interesting shift has to do with the educational attainment of marrying couples. Take for example, marriages involving first-time grooms who did not go to university. A decade ago, out of ten such marriages, just two or three involved a woman with higher educational attainment than the man. Today, it is more common; four in 10 such marriages are like that.
  11. We don’t know the exact causes of such a shift. Perhaps it suggests a greater willingness to put aside traditional inhibitions in the search for true love, and a broadening of the mind over what makes a suitable marriage partner.
  12. In any case, I’m happy for the couples and hope they inspire others to broaden their search for the right partner in life.
  13. I mention this because these couples have in some ways, challenged convention and become pathfinders for others.
  14. The women entrepreneurs we recognise this evening share the same characteristics. You are not resigned to the status quo, and you have the guts and gumption to be trailblazers in your chosen fields. Thanks to your strong spirit of entrepreneurship, our business scene is more vibrant and many more jobs have been created.
  15. As a nation, our female employment rate has improved steadily. From 64% in 2007, it has risen to 72% in 2017. In terms of full-time employment, we are ranked sixth compared to 35 OECD countries, ahead of countries like Finland, US and France.
  16. Besides improved representation in the professional, public and people sectors over time, women are also better recognised through their pay levels.
  17. Today, the gender pay gap in Singapore compares well with other countries. Compared to 35 OECD countries, we were placed 10th, ahead of countries like Germany, United Kingdom and United States.
  18. Today’s generation of younger women have more opportunities to excel. As a society, our firm belief is that women in Singapore should be able to pursue what is important to them, be it career or family or both, without having to choose between one or the other.
  19. Singapore was named one of two best countries in the world to have children. Many young Singaporeans, including women, hope to marry and have children. But we know they face obstacles.
  20. My cabinet colleagues and I will continue to do what we can to empower women through choice. Such as increasing the number of affordable pre-school places of good quality or pushing for more flexible work arrangements and other progressive workplace practices, so that more women can choose both career and family.
  21. Having said that, we must remember that flexible work arrangements are for all, and not only women. Husbands, by being involved, can make a difference too, such as by sharing caregiving duties and parental responsibilities.
  22. Together with our tripartite partners, we have come some way in fostering inclusive and family-friendly workplaces. In doing so, we will at the same time give women more opportunities to become all that they hope to be.
  23. Congratulations to all the award-winners tonight, and I wish everyone here a great evening.
  24. Thank you.