Singapore women have more equal opportunities, but some way to go for equitable outcomes

In Singapore, more women are assuming leadership roles at work and fathers are getting more paternity leave. Beyond equality, we should look to create equity too this International Women’s Day, says Singapore Kindness Movement’s Michelle Tay.

SINGAPORE: Today (Mar 8) is International Women’s Day (IWD). While it is a day to champion women and their achievements, it is also a day to celebrate gender parity. 

Imagine a world where there is diversity without bias, inclusivity without discrimination. That’s why this year’s IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity. 

We’ve come a long way from calling for equal rights. Equal opportunities aren’t enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion requires equitable action. That’s why we should move past advocating for equality and look to create equity instead.

What’s the difference between the two? 

Equality gives everyone the same resources. Equity considers our differences first so that there is a fair outcome for all. 

Equality focuses on giving everyone the same amount, which may lead to differing results. Equity focuses on giving everyone the correct amount, which aims to reach a similar result. 

I spoke with Cassandra Chiu, executive director of K9Assistance, which champions the use of assistance dogs in Singapore, and she told me that it’s about levelling the playing field through kindness.

“(Equity is) giving ourselves the permission to be kind to those around us at work, at home, in the community. It’s about showing others around us the same kindness and respect we would hope for ourselves. That would give every person a fair shot at life,” she said. 

Chiu would know, being the one of the first guide dog owners in Singapore and an advocate for guide dogs for more than 10 years. 


Ensuring equity at the workplace is tough, but women are making progress at the top. 

The latest figures from the Council for Board Diversity revealed that board diversity is gathering momentum across all sectors in Singapore.

More than a third (36 per cent) of director appointments to the boards of the country’s 100 largest companies in 2022 were women. This was higher in statutory boards – 38 per cent. Among first-time directors, women accounted for even more, 45 per cent of the total – another record number.


The recent doubling of paternity leave in Singapore goes some way towards creating equity. More paternity leave (although at four weeks, it is still less than the 16 weeks currently enjoyed by mothers) ensures that the burden of childcare does not fall solely on working mothers.  

As Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said, the government wants “paternal involvement to be the norm in our society and we will stand behind all our fathers who want to play a bigger role in raising our children”.


I recently joked with my team members that since IWD falls on March 8, we should embrace the “san ba” in us to make positive gains for girls and women. 

In Mandarin, san ba means the eighth day of the third month – but it is also a pejorative term for a woman who gossips or pries into other people’s business. 

But words only have power over us if we let them.  

Michelle Tay is Head of Partnerships at the Singapore Kindness Movement.

Source: CNA/el