updated 8 Jun 2011, 03:31
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Sun, Mar 29, 2009
The New Paper
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She breaks the glass ceiling
by Ng Wan Ching

IT SEEMS almost like a natural progression that Mrs Lim Hwee Hua should become Singapore’s first full-fledged woman minister.

It was announced last evening that the calm and good-natured former Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport was promoted to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

She will also be appointed as Second Minister for Finance and Transport.

Mrs Lim, 50, had missed out on a full ministerial post in the last Cabinet reshuffle in March last year.

It has been a steady rise since she entered politics 12 years ago.

Her words in an interview with this reporter last yearseem almost prophetic.

Mrs Lim,who is chairman of the PAP Women’s Wing, had replied then on whether there are invisible glass ceilings for women: “From the time I joined, there was always talk of glass ceilings. First it was, ‘can a woman be an MP?’

“Then it was, ‘Can a woman MP be an office holder?’

“And now, ‘Can there be a full woman minister?’

“These glass ceilings have steadily risen over time. I believe that in my lifetime, there will definitely be a woman minister.”

She’s proved it by becoming the first, less than a year after uttering those words.

Mrs Lim has never made it a secret that she liked work and wanted to work.

She knew this when she took no-pay leave 20 years ago to accompany her husband on his overseas posting and to take care of their children.

Recounting how she felt then, Mrs Lim said: “You know, it’s fun cooking for a while, but notona day-to-day basis.”

She has publicly made the point that all women are “made differently”, with “different inclinations”.

While she did want to spend time with her children, now, aged 25, 23 and 17, she was quite happy to be back in a non-home environment because of having worked and being geared that way.

“Which is why I keep telling a lot of the working mothers that they shouldn’t feel so guilty about not being at home with the kids because not everyone is made for the home,” she said in another interview.

Always honest

When her husband went to do his MBA, she had originally planned to just accompany him. But he then suggested that she do her MBA as well.

“He knows me well,” she said in an interview with this reporter.

“I thought I would just be there to look after our two children. He thought I would get bored out of my mind before long and he was right!”

Throughout the interview last year, she was frank and forthcoming.

She shared details of her life and family and when she thought her children might think some of the details too personal, she requested that I leave it out of my report.

“I’m the one in the public eye, not them,” shehad said with a laugh.

The daughter of a tea merchant and housewife was the third youngest among nine siblings.

She was fortunate. By the time it came to her, the financial pressure on the family had eased as many of her siblings were working.

The Crescent Girls and Raffles Institution alumnus aced her examinations and received a government scholarship to study at Cambridge.

“For me, it had always been about studying hard, getting my qualifications and going out to work. Not working never crossed my mind,” she said to this reporter.

It certainly looks like she will be working for a long time more.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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