Singapore GE2020: Who Is Gan Siow Huang? PAP to Field SAF's First Woman General

Gan Siow Huang became Singapore's first woman brigadier-general and worked with labor unions as a deputy chief executive of e2i

After spending 27 years in service, Gan Siow Huang has now moved on to serve Singapore in a different capacity. The city-state's first woman brigadier-general will contest in the upcoming general election, scheduled for July 10 on a People's Action Party (PAP) ticket. Masagos Zulkifli is PAP's vice-chairman and the minster for Environment and Water Resources named her among the four new candidates at a press conference on Friday, June 26.

In 2015, Gan became the highest-ranking woman in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) after joining the service in 1993. She was also among the first four women to receive SAF Merit Scholarship. Beginning as an air-traffic controller, the 46-year-old served as the Commanding Officer (CO) of the Singapore Airforce's 203 squadron while she was expecting her second child. Gan, who has three daughters, then gradually rose through the ranks to take command of Singapore's four air force bases.

"I would tell you that this is one of the best choices and most fulfilling choices that I made for myself, other than marrying my husband," Gan said on joining politics. "It's a place where men and women of different races, religions, backgrounds all come together, serving a common goal to protect Singapore."

Gan Siow Huang
Gan Siow Huang became Singapore's first woman brigadier-general in 2015 Facebook/ Lee Hsien Loong

Labor Movement

In March 2020, she resigned from her role as the Chief of Staff - Air Staff and joined the labor movement as a deputy chief executive of the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) of the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC). Later, in May, she became the Chief Commissioner of the Girl Guides, Singapore.

"After more than 25 years in service, I felt that I was ready to move on, to take on new challenges and contribute to the community in other ways — this time, in the economic area," she told media in March.

Soon after leaving military service, Gan was spotted with Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen along with four other MPs from Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC on March 22. As she spoke to people and visitors at the Bishan North Shopping Mall, speculations about her being a potential candidate in the General election rose.

She was also involved in grassroots works in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC including food distribution. Considering that, she is expected to contest in the election from the GRC but an official announcement is yet to be made from PAP's headquarters.

"I hope that people will give me a chance and don't look at me as just another general — look at me for who I am," she said addressing the Singaporeans in the virtual meet. "I know the importance of bread and butter (issues) and the importance of having a job, to be able to protect one's lives, and their families".

Gan Siow Huang
Gan Siow Huang is expected to contest from Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Facebook/ Gan Siow Huang

Fighting Against Stereotypes

Although Singaporeans have often criticized the army personnel for joining politics, Gan said she has relevant experience. During her military career, she said, she was involved in planning, capability development and policy work, manpower, and intelligence gathering among others — making her an experienced candidate.

"I would say that I have gathered several building blocks that I think are critical to any good organizing entity and I would say the leadership experiences that I gained and also the lessons I learnt in taking care of people will help me to be a good politician," she added.

Besides her, Rachel Ong Sin Yen, Chief Executive of ROHEI, Sharael Taha, Vice President of SAESL and Alex Yeo Sheng Chye, a former public servant, were named among PAP's 27 candidates in the GE2020.