Trade unionist and first woman Speaker of Parliament
Halimah Yacob is a trail blazer. She became the first female Speaker of Singapore’s Parliament in January 2013. She was the first Malay woman to be elected an MP: in the 2001 general election, she won a seat in Jurong GRC.
As a working mother and with experience in the labour union, Halimah has championed the interests of women and workers. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said she spoke “with a practical, compassionate voice, helping us to shape effective policies with a human touch”. She is the longest serving female Muslim politician in the ruling People’s Action Party.
Halimah comes from a humble background, studying law at the University of Singapore on a MUIS scholarship. She graduated in 1978 with an honours degree and was called to the bar in 1981. In 2001, she attained her Masters in law from NUS.
On graduation, she joined the National Trades Union Congress and was variously director of the women’s development secretariat and of its legal services before becoming NTUC deputy secretary-general. She was the first Singaporean to be elected to the governing body of the International Labor Organisation.
Halimah has served on various boards including the Housing and Development Board, Tripartite Alliance on Fair Employment Practices, Tripartite Workgroup on Enhancing Employment Choices for Women and Mendaki Sense.
On 23 January, 2013, the National Council of Social Services named her its first adviser to tap into her “extensive and deep understanding of ground concerns, together with her practical ways”.
Before becoming Speaker, Halimah served as minister of state in the Ministry of Social and Family Development. She is on PAP's central executive committee.
The politician is vocal on social issues ranging from training for older and less skilled workers to caring for the elderly and mentally ill. She supports flexible working arrangements and family care leave to improve work-life balance. She also fought successfully for equal medical benefits for women civil servants.
Halimah was Berita Harian/McDonalds “Achiever of the Year” in 2001 and Her World Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 2004.
"Women must realise that while they would like to think that their work speaks for itself, in reality, they do have to take greater charge of their own careers. And be ready to accept invitations to be a board member, even if it means being the sole woman on the board."