Re­think­ing the role of women in work­place

New Straits Times - - Business - MADANI SAHARI The writer is chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Malaysia Au­to­mo­tive In­sti­tute.

STA­TIS­TICS from the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry de­note that in 2015, 54 per cent of the to­tal num­ber of stu­dents en­rolled in in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing, com­pris­ing univer­si­ties, poly­tech­nics and community col­leges — were fe­male. Fe­males also make up 43 per cent of stu­dents en­rolled in en­gi­neer­ing or science and maths cour­ses.

This is a clear demon­stra­tion of our na­tion’s progress to­wards gen­der equal­ity.

How­ever, this ar­ti­cle is not about self-praise, but look­ing at fur­ther­ing gen­der equal­ity at all lev­els of eco­nomic par­tic­i­pa­tion.

The sta­tis­tics above can not be used as just a means of cel­e­bra­tion for women, but an in­sight into our in­dus­trial fu­ture.

Al­though there are more than one mil­lion women en­trepreneurs reg­is­tered in Malaysia, there is no deny­ing we need to see more par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in the higher ech­e­lons of ex­ec­u­tive or en­tre­pre­neur­ial ven­tures.

A sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of fe­males in univer­si­ties to­day sim­ply means that in the next gen­er­a­tion, the fe­male tal­ent pool will be a sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic con­trib­u­tor.

There­fore, in the im­me­di­ate decades to come, one of the key na­tional agen­das will be the op­ti­mi­sa­tion of tal­ent util­i­sa­tion in the in­dus­try — to al­low the ca­reers of women to flour­ish, and not be lim­ited to do­mes­tic roles, wast­ing their tal­ent half­way through their jour­ney.

This means we must quickly look at means of al­low­ing even more women to par­tic­i­pate in the work­force, and over­come the bar­ri­ers that cre­ate the “glass ceil­ing”.

The bar­ri­ers of fe­male em­pow­er­ment are not just a Malaysian prob­lem, but a global one. Even the United States of Amer­ica has not found its first fe­male president, al­though ad­mit­tedly has come close in re­cent times.

Euro­pean na­tions have seen more progress, while no­table fe­male lead­ers have achieved these his­tor­i­cal mile­stones in Asia, such as in In­dia, Pak­istan and South Korea.

Re­ports sug­gest that while ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for women are read­ily avail­able, women still have is­sues pen­e­trat­ing high level ca­reers, as they are ex­pected to man­age the do­mes­tic is­sues of the home.

This cul­tural ac­cep­tance may be a fu­ture prob­lem when tal­ent is in high de­mand.

Hence comes the co­nun­drum of who takes on the role of home­maker. It is ad­mit­tedly still im­por­tant, and must be care­fully man­aged for us to move for­ward with times.

This is where I be­lieve with progress comes more op­por­tu­ni­ties. The ad­vent of tech­nol­ogy, if its pen­e­tra­tion were man­aged, opens up the pos­si­bil­i­ties of work­ing modes that al­low both men and women to con­trib­ute their tal­ents to the econ­omy and share the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of rais­ing a fam­ily at the same time.

There are many ideas to ad­dress this — flex­i­ble work­ing hours, open of­fice con­cepts, work­place nurs­eries, and im­mer­sive on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools.

All these have the po­ten­tial to meet the needs men­tioned above and show more po­ten­tial with the ad­vance­ment of tech­nol­ogy.

Most im­por­tantly, all play­ers, be it gov­ern­ment, in­dus­try or academia must be will­ing to ad­dress this fu­ture need. Dis­cus­sion, di­a­logues and ideas must be al­lowed to thrive to cre­ate the flex­i­bil­ity for ca­reers to flour­ish.

At the same time, op­por­tu­ni­ties do not bear fruit if women ac­cept that their sole role of ex­is­tence is to sup­port the ca­reers of their hus­bands. They must want, and take the op­por­tu­ni­ties as much as their male coun­ter­parts.

It will be a great loss to see half of our tal­ent not be al­lowed to con­trib­ute to our great na­tion.

Al­though there are more than one mil­lion women en­trepreneurs reg­is­tered in Malaysia, there is no deny­ing we need to see more par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in the higher ech­e­lons of ex­ec­u­tive or en­tre­pre­neur­ial ven­tures.

BLOOMBERG PIC

Re­ports sug­gest that while ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties for women are read­ily avail­able, they have is­sues pen­e­trat­ing high level ca­reers, as they are still ex­pected to man­age the house­hold.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.