Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gave the keynote speech at the Forbes Forum: Asia's Power Business Women: the Way Forward held in Bangkok on April 23. The speech was tweeted from the PM's personal Twitter account and also posted in its entirety here.
Yingluck made some rather telling remarks. In particular, she places a great deal of emphasis on "family". Though she makes attempts to challenge gender stereotypes, there is still the underlying presumption that for a woman to succeed, she needs to conform to the role of wife and mother in tandem with pursuing a career. See here:
Women are usually told that they face a dilemma, between pursuing a family life and having a successful career. Well, I think all of us being here today show that this is no longer a problem because we can manage these multiple responsibilities. Most importantly, we are able to maintain a good balance between family life and career. I am both a mother and a Prime Minister. I believe being one makes me better in the other.
I understand that the PM is drawing from her personal experience, but I don't think she goes enough out of her way to break stereotypes. In closing her speech, Yingluck also excluded a large portion of the country in her vision for prosperity.
One last point. I am a strong believer in partnerships. And the most powerful partnership is between male and female.
I may be reading a little too much into what Yingluck is saying, but I feel that for someone who has a real opportunity to address gender issues in Thailand, the prime minister should choose her words a little more carefully. Gender stereotypes persist and the conversation has to move beyond simply male and female.
Here are some of the highlights from the speech, as posted on the prime minister's personal Twitter account: