Claire Chiang



Claire Chiang (b. 4 October 1951, Singapore–) is a social activist, entrepreneur and author. She was Singapore’s Woman of the Year in 1999, and a former nominated member of parliament.1 Married to Ho Kwon Ping, president of the Wah Chang/Thai Wah group of companies, she is executive director of Banyan Tree Gallery.2 Her business acumen led her to break the long-standing tradition of an all-male Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, when she became one of the first two women to be admitted to the organisation in 1995.3 Notwithstanding her achievements, Chiang remains down-to-earth. She actively advocates for women’s rights, family life and the disadvantaged in society.4

Early life
Chiang spent her childhood in a shophouse on Race Course Road in Little India – a home she shared with 11 other Hainanese family members. She is the youngest and only daughter, together with five boys.5 Her father worked as an accountant, while her mother took on various odd jobs.6 Having to share her room with two brothers and her paternal grandmother, Chiang never had a bed to herself until she reached adulthood.7 However, through this proximity, she grew closer to her paternal grandmother, whom along with her mother, influenced her early ideas on feminism and womanhood.8


Chiang’s early life was a mixture of adversity and diversity. Living in poverty, her meals comprised mainly vegetarian dishes. Meat such as chicken was a luxury item consumed only on special occasions.9 Yet, her parents had friends from all backgrounds, ranging from towkays to washerwoman.10 Despite their poverty, she saw her parents giving food to the needy, and her father offering free accounting services when needed.11

Chiang’s mother took on odd jobs to support her family, and she ensured that her daughter learned everything from piano to ballet to Chinese dance. To ensure that Chiang could have a strong bilingual education, she was enrolled in two primary schools – Nan Hua Chinese School and Raffles Girls’ School. Despite the overwhelming pressure, Chiang is grateful to her mother for shaping her into who she is today.12

For more than 20 years, Chiang’s mother suffered various illnesses from breast cancer to stroke. Nevertheless, she displayed great strength and determination in raising her children. She eventually died from kidney failure.13

Career
Chiang’s life has been marked by several interesting careers in academia and business.14 She was a tertiary-level sociology tutor and then research sociologist from the late 1970s to early 1990s.15 She co-wrote the award-winning book Stepping Out: The Making of Chinese Entrepreneurs in 1993, which was made into a Chinese drama serial in 1999.16


In 1992, Chiang became the human resource executive of Ho’s Wah Chang group of companies, and later rose to manage the group’s human resources.17 She subsequently became a notable figure in the business world as the founder and executive director of Banyan Tree Gallery.18 By working with indigenous artisans, the gallery sources for furnishings on behalf of Ho’s Banyan Tree Resorts. It also runs the retail outlets at the museums in Singapore.19

In 1995, Chiang was one of only two women elected to the council of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.20

Contributions to society
Chiang is actively involved in social work and women’s issues.21 She took up volunteering in 1990 after a miscarriage, and found that it helped her feel useful, happy and productive to society.22

She became president of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) in 1993, and the Society Against Family Violence in 1995.23 She also served as board member in a number of welfare organisations.24

In 1997, Chiang became a nominated member of parliament to advocate issues on family and examine factors causing the disintegration of families.25

Timeline
1951: Born in Singapore.
1974: Attains Bachelor of Arts from the University of Singapore, majoring in sociology.26
1975–78: Personal assistant to cultural counsellor at the French embassy.27
1977: Attains Bachelor of Social Sciences.28
1978–88: Sociology tutor, University of Hong Kong and then National University of Singapore.29
1985: Attains Master of Philosophy in sociology from the University of Hong Kong, with thesis on factory women and their work.30
1988: Joins AWARE.31
1989–91: Research sociologist, Centre for Advanced Studies, National University of Singapore.32
1990: Helps set up AWARE’s helpline.33
1991: Joins Wah Chang Group.34
1993–94: President of AWARE.
1993: Co-authors and publishes Stepping Out: The Making of Chinese Entrepreneurs.35
1994: Wins National Book Development Council of Singapore Highly Commended Award for Stepping Out: The Making of Chinese Entrepreneurs.36
1994: Conceives idea for Banyan Tree Gallery and becomes its executive director.37

1995: President of Society Against Family Violence.
1995: One of two women admitted to the council of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, breaking the tradition of an all-male chamber.
1997–2001: Nominated member of parliament.38
1999: Woman of the Year, Her World magazine.39

Family
Husband: Ho Kwon Ping
Children: Two sons and one daughter40



Author

Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Low, P. K. C. (2013). Leading successfully in Asia. Heidelberg: Springer, p. 309. (Call no: RSING 658.4092 LOW); Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
2. Lee, J. (2003, February 11). Circle of culture. Today, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, P. K. C. (2013). Leading successfully in Asia. Heidelberg: Springer, p. 309. (Call no: RSING 658.4092 LOW)
3. Low, P. K. C. (2013). Leading successfully in Asia. Heidelberg: Springer, p. 309. (Call no: RSING 658.4092 LOW)
4. Lee, J. (2003, February 11). Circle of culture. Today, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, P. K. C. (2013). Leading successfully in Asia. Heidelberg: Springer, p. 309. (Call no: RSING 658.4092 LOW)
5. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3; Claire is Woman of the Year. (1999, March 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3; Koh, B. P. (1999, March 13). Claire Chiang – superwoman. The Straits Times, p. 52. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Koh, B. P. (1999, March 13). Claire Chiang – superwoman. The Straits Times, p. 52. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Mathi, B. (1998, December 6). Claire Chiang: How I became a volunteer. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Claire is Woman of the Year. (1999, March 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Lee, J. (2003, February 11). Circle of culture. Today, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
16. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3; Chin, S. F. (1998, March 20). NMP behind idea for serial on pioneers. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, P. K. C. (2013). Leading successfully in Asia. Heidelberg: Springer, p. 309. (Call no: RSING 658.4092 LOW)
17. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
18. Mathi, B. (1998, December 6). Claire Chiang: How I became a volunteer. The Straits Times, p. 31; Lee, J. (2003, February 11). Circle of culture. Today, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Lee, J. (2003, February 11). Circle of culture. Today, p. 32; Wong, K. H. (2004, January 11). Who says I sold out? The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Tan, T. (1995, January 15). Two women elected to Chinese chamber of commerce council. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Mathi, B. (1998, December 6). Claire Chiang: How I became a volunteer. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Koh, B. P. (1999, March 13). Claire Chiang – superwoman. The Straits Times,
p. 52; Mathi, B. (1998, December 6). Claire Chiang: How I became a volunteer. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
24. Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
25. Fernandez, W. (1997, September 26). Diverse range of views will be represented. The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
28. Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
29. Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
30. Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO); Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, September 5). Activist of silk and substance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Chin, S. F. (1998, March 20). NMP behind idea for serial on pioneers. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Chin, S. F. (1998, March 20). NMP behind idea for serial on pioneers. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Yeo, S. (1994, June 11). Under the banyan tree. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
39. Claire is Woman of the Year. (1999, March 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Low, K. T. (2003). Who’s who in Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., pp. 81–82. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)



The information in this article is valid as at 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Women politicians--Singapore--Biography
Chiang, Claire, 1951-
Personalities
Law and government>>Public administration>>Cabinet (Government Councils)
Businesswomen--Singapore--Biography
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Leisure and entertainment
Personalities>>Biographies