About to leave a Singapore that I have called my home for two years and learnt to admire in many respects and criticise in some, returning to a much colder corner of the world, I take this opportunity to envision where Singapore could be in the future, a future that might occur in a century or a decennary. An incurable optimist by nature, I will call it tomorrow. And I’ll wear my gender equality glasses.
Tomorrow the percentage of female ministers in the Singaporean cabinet could be the same as the percentage of women in the adult population. Which, as we all know, is more than 50% – even if more boys are born than girls there are more women than men in productive ages (reader quiz; why is that so ? Answers to be mailed to AWARE's Male Chapter). And Singapore could finally have joined the first world also in the gender representation, by having both a female PM and a female president.
The CEO of every second enterprise could be a woman. Not only because of research indicating that female-led enterprises make considerably better profits but mainly because of the female competence pool started through the introduction of gender quotas. Half of the professors, engineers, technicians and taxi and bus drivers could be women. And, of course, half of the teachers and nurses could be men.
Discrimination because of gender (or sexual orientation for that matter) could be criminalized in Singapore.
Singaporean women could have started to take themselves seriously and expect equal possibilities and responsibilities – form boyfriends as well as colleagues. And Singaporean men wouldn’t need to desperately prove their masculinity by performing and providing and protecting. They could take pride in developing an identity also beside the professional one, and in being real fathers for their kids. Acknowledging, sharing and using feelings could be considered a strength instead of a weakness. Carrying your girlfriend’s handbag could be mused as an odd anachronism.
Womens's advocacy organizations like AWARE could have turned into gender equality advocacy organizations fighting gender based discrimination wherever it’s surfacing, regardless of whether the victims are female professionals hitting glass ceilings or divorced fathers losing custody. They could be pushing the society to remove all obstacles for women’s full participation in the workforce by establishing guaranteed daycare for all children and elderly people and encouraging and even enforcing men to take their responsibility for a gender ‘blind’ society where all talents and competences could be fully developed and utilized. They could educate and lobby to change the patriarchal family policy into one recognizing and supporting other opions as well, with children from divorced, remarried or just cohabiting parents having exactly the same rights as those of married ones. The strategic intent could be to create mature independent women and a gender egalitarian culture on par with the Scandinavian ones, that as local could better serve as a model for other Asian cultures.
Tomorrow isn't further away than just around the corner – and its seeds are sown today.
Singapore has succeeded to transform itself from a third world to a first world nation, by adopting much of the culture of the first world – except gender equality. As a friend of Singapore I really hope that her gender equal tomorrow – releasing the full potential of the whole population – won’t occur in a too distant future.
This text was written for a column in a Singaporean paper