Newspaper article China Post

Please Don't Downplay Gender, Madame President

Newspaper article China Post

Please Don't Downplay Gender, Madame President

Article excerpt

In an article titled, "Taiwan, the place to be a woman in politics," BBC News described President Tsai Ing-wen as a virtually unique case among East Asia's female leaders. Tsai did not rise to a position of power following in the steps of a father, brother or husband, unlike South Korea's President Park Geun-hye, the Philippines' former President Corazon Aquino or Thailand's former PM Yingluck Shinawatra.

All the while January's legislative election resulted in a record-breaking percentage of female lawmakers at 38 percent, putting Taiwan ahead of Asian countries and exceeding the international average of 22 percent.

Also, many notable women have assumed powerful positions without the convenience of political family legacies, including Kuomintang Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu, Koahsiung City Mayor Chen Chu and former Vice President Annette Lu.

All this paints a promising picture of Taiwan as a thriving society that stands for gender equality.

But it's worth noting that none of the top four female political figures are married or have children. And among 40 cabinet members, only four are women.

Ironically, the first female president's new cabinet has the fewest women in history at only 10 percent - Tsai's cabinet has become an "old boys' club," almost as bad as it was 20 years ago, when former President Lee Teng-hui was in office.

Following the cabinet announcement, women's groups protested against Tsai's gender-blindness outside the Democratic Progressive Party headquarters. And Lee Yuan-chen, feminist and once national policy advisor to former President Chen Shui-bian, openly rejected an invitation to attend the state banquet, saying "Tsai Ing-wen let down Peng Wan-ru, who paved the way for women's political participation in the DPP."

The low ratio of women in cabinet is no negligible issue. Tsai had previously vowed in the 2012 White Paper on Women's Policies that women will take up no less than one third of cabinet members. So after naming Lin Chuan as premier, had Tsai simply forgotten or disposed of this commitment to women's representation?

Neither would have been excusable for a future leader of a nation.

Tsai stressed appointments had been made based on capability, and urged cabinet members to not "fear outside criticisms and attacks," and rather focus on delivering results. …

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