The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court, was asked when the nine-member court would have enough women judges. She replied that would happen when there were nine women on it. “But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that,” she said. Ms Ginsburg demonstrated that rare ability to reject institutional arrangements based on unchallenged traditions. Women’s representation in every area of life is not a privilege granted by men but a right that accrues to them by virtue of their humanity, their civic skills and their professional ability. In progressive Singapore, where women are an unremarkable feature of the workplace, it is inconceivable that more of them should not occupy positions on the boards of companies, statutory boards and charities.
President Halimah Yacob’s remarks, made at a forum organised by the Council for Board Diversity on Thursday, highlight the importance of gender diversity in the economic life of Singapore. Diversity enables organisations to harness a spectrum of talent as a competitive edge. Apart from moral obligations, it is an expected norm today that women should be in leadership positions. Board composition is important because it is the most powerful signal of institutional culture. Patriarchal institutions are out of sync with the spirit of an age that recognises the need for inclusivity to cover class, race and gender so long as meritocracy prevails in the selection of talent.
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