Sunday, April 30, 2006

The soft touch of women 1 comments

(P.S: Sorry for any disturbances the advertisements above may have caused you)
I decided to veer a bit from the main theme of this StockThoughts blog today and reflect on the increasing importance of women in politics and business today. You may also notice that I have also zoomed into women's products in my most recent HotStocksNot article on SunEast where I considered the importance and growth potential of breast cream. Perhaps my insightful views on women will attract more from the opposite gender to my blog (pls roll your eyes if this corniness is too much for you).

The catalyst for my writing this article is a news report this morning which said that George W Bush's biggest asset now is his wife Laura Bush, who enjoys an incredibly high approval rating of >80% and is being inundated with requests from various Republican Party members to support their Congress election efforts. Well partly the reason is that she is not involved in any controversial policy-making but analysts also point to the fact that she has the softer touch and "simple elegance" --- factors that can only be attributed to women.

On a broader context, there are several factors why there are more women making a mark both in the corporate world (local examples: Olivia Lum of Hyflux and Saw Phaik Hua of SMRT, not to mention Mdm Ho Ching of Temasek) and in politics nowadays: firstly, the softer feminine touch which helps in sales and marketing plus customer negotiations; secondly, their understanding of certain sub-sectors which men could not begin to achieve a comprehensive understanding (Martha Stewart and her home furnishings business being a prime example); thirdly, they are seen as better consensus-makers and less power-hungry. There were even some studies which consistently showed that women were much less likely to be corrupt than men, in business and in politics.

One also cannot fail to notice the growing band of women politicians in Singapore. None of the current women MPs were retired, while a significant new number were inducted for the current GE. Besides being able to bring a new perspective to important issues (healthcare, education, even economic restructuring), they also bring to the table new issues to consider (environmental, care for underprivileged). Besides being seen to be better able to represent the other 50% of the population, I believe they are being brought in to build better rapport and consensus with the general population because there is a coming stratification in society with the rich growing richer while the poor risk being sidelined with their jobs being taken over by more price competitive foreign labour.

Much has been said about this and I need not go into it further. The restructuring of Singapore is work in progress despite what many proclaim as mission accomplished during the current rallies. To bring in a more compassionate group of new blood able to empathise with the less fortunate is a good move, and the common people will be less harsh on them as well. There is an innate chivalrous spirit towards women which tends to attenuate any difference of opinions: this is even present in our battle-hardened MM Lee which was palpable in the manner he discussed issues over calmly with the female journalists at the recent TV conversation, in contrast to the way he verbally manhandled some of the male ones.

That is not to take anything away, of course, from those ladies who believe they have succeeded on their own merit. There is a saying that female corporate figures who make it tend to have worked twice as hard as the men to break the glass ceilings and "get there". So there is a steely side to them; however, it is the soft touch that we all need now.