The role of women in politics was under the spotlight yesterday after two female officials were promoted to senior positions, but none were selected to head any of the 28 ministries. Former state councillor Wu Yi was promoted to vice-premier. Ms Wu, 65, earned a reputation as an 'iron lady' for her tough position at trade talks with foreign countries when she was a vice-minister of foreign economic relations and trade. Former education minister Chen Zhili was promoted as one of the five state councillors. Ms Chen, 61, is a physics expert and served in Shanghai for almost two decades before she joined the central government to head the Education Ministry in 1997. She was one of the two women ministers in the last cabinet, along with then minister for science and technology Zhu Lilan. Zhou Hongyu, a Hubei NPC deputy, said the decrease in the number of female ministers 'did not indicate a decrease in women's political participation'. 'Wu Yi and Chen Zhili were promoted as vice-premier and state councillor respectively. It shows women will play a more active role in Chinese politics,' he said. Ms Zhu was elected chairwoman of the NPC's Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee, which is regarded as a minister-ranking position. Ms Chen got the lowest number of votes during polling. Guan Xiaohong, a Jiangsu delegate and professor of Nanjing Medical University, believed it was because Ms Chen was not well known. Fan Zengsheng, a delegate for Taiwan, called for the central government to step up efforts to train more women officials. 'I think the deep-rooted tradition of favouring men over women still runs deep in our society,' he said. Only 604 of the 2,958 NPC deputies are women.