Women in Diplomacy

MP He Ting Ru

Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang): Mr Chairman, the emphasis on families and equality in this year’s Budget makes it a good time to discuss the role of women in diplomacy.

Apart from just looking at the proportion of women in roles across our foreign service, I would also like to understand what more is being done to support women and their families in the foreign service as they move ahead with their careers.

International Women’s Day is coming up next week. Yet I note that unlike many countries in the region such as Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia, we still have not yet had a woman take on the role of Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Women in key leadership positions create role models for those who wish to follow in their footsteps. Studies have also found that having women involved in a peace process increases the chances of a negotiation being reached. 

Getting to those roles, however, may not be easy. The foreign service can be a tough job – being on call, constant travel, frequent relocation and a high stress working environment. This can make having a stable family life particularly difficult. 

These pressures may fall particularly heavily on women who seek a long-term career in our foreign service. We still live in societies where there are greater expectations on women to be carers and to perhaps even forego their career prospects to fulfil these obligations.

I would like to ask what steps the Ministry is taking to support women in our foreign service, especially to ensure that they have an equal chance of success. What is being done to regularly review the circumstances faced by women in the foreign service and their families and improve on existing measures? How much of the approximately $10 million earmarked for “Manpower Development” in MFA’s FY2023 budget is allocated to equality efforts?

Striving for our Singaporean aspirations of equality in the foreign service sets a tone for society that gender equality is of importance across all areas.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
27 February 2023


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