In today’s large organization, as women climb up the corporate ladder they vanish. While the statistics vary slightly around the world, this is an extremely consistent pattern.
At the lowest levels, more than half of the employees in organizations are female. As you move to each successively higher level in the organization, the number of women steadily shrinks. At the CEO level, worldwide, there are only 3% to 4% who are women.
Singaporeans love to think of themselves as age/race/sex neutral people. But are we really? Perhaps the time has come to put it to the test – will we be willing to accept a female presidency?
“If you look (back) at the (early) 80s, we didn’t have a single female Member of Parliament,” said Madam Halimah Yaacob, adding that it is difficult for her, as Speaker now, to visualise “a field of male parliamentarians” back then. “(Now) we have got over 20 per cent, which is higher than the international average… so that is pretty good.”
Madam Halimah herself, has been touted as a potential contender in the presidential election to be held this September. This time around the race will be reserved for candidates from the Malay community, under broad constitutional changes passed last November that spell out how a presidential election will be reserved for a particular racial group that has not produced a president for five terms in a row.
When asked if she thinks that there would be potential for more female ministers and a female president in Singapore, Madam Halimah said it was a “tricky question” that she would not be able to answer. “But certainly, I hope to see women growing in leadership positions in Singapore, because that then allows women to fully develop their capabilities and contribute.
Female leadership is still not very much accepted around the world. The number of countries that have had a female leader continues to expand. But the list is still relatively short, and even when women have made it to power, they’ve rarely led for a long time.