Saturday, December 11, 2010


Despite the progress made by women in all spheres of life and industry, it is still pretty much a man's world. In almost every country, women outnumber men and outlive men, and if given half a chance, they would outperform men.

In Malaysia, women make up slightly more than half of the total population of 28.25m. However, this is not reflected in the number of women in the work force. The public sector remains the largest employer of women. The civil service, in particular, the teaching and nursing professions, is overwhelmingly staffed by women. This imbalance is not ideal either.

Debate on "There's Nothing Stopping Women!" moderated by TV and theatre personality Asha Gill. For the motion (from right): Sakie Fukushima, Rita Sim and Dr Zaha Rina Zahari. Against the motion (from left): Datin Mina Cheah-Foong, Shivani Gupta and Datuk Dr Rafiah Salim. Guess which team won the support of the floor? Click here to read more about the debate.

All ears as the debaters present their arguments.

In the corporate sector, especially at top managerial level, the number of women in decision-making positions continues to be pathetic. Only 6% are corporate directors and 7% are CEOs. These figures came from the Deputy PM himself in his keynote address at the just concluded 2-day Women's Summit on 8-9 December. The theme for this year is "Changing Mindsets, Transforming Lives".

International speaker and author Avivah Wittenberg-Cox provides convincing data to show that companies with more women in top managerial positions are more profitable and efficient.

It's time for women to change their mindset and get rid of their "I'm not good enough" mentality. They should stop viewing themselves as good only for child-bearing, house-keeping and bed-warming. Given the right opportunities and support, women can excel in anything they choose.

(Slide from Jen Dalitz's presentation "The Networking Advantage").

Unfortunately, it's an uphill task for women to shine in the corporate sector. Opportunities are limited, and gender discrimination is still practised. There is always this nagging concern that it's money down the drain to train women and groom them into captains of industry. Once they are in the family way, they either go on extended maternity leave or opt out of the work force altogether to raise their children.

It's not easy to juggle the demands of work and home, and still have room for your own needs. But it can be done, and that's why women are so much more efficient and better at multi-tasking than men.

No wonder the birth-rate has fallen from 2.6 percent in 2000 to 2.2 percent in 2008. The downward trend is expected to continue. Career-focused women have little choice but to either delay having children or not have any at all.

Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Dato' Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, is pressing for the Employment Act to be amended to make it mandatory for the private sector to adopt a 90-maternity leave policy. The policy is already enforced in the public sector. She also wants more women representation in the boardroom, especially in government-linked companies (GLCs)

The response from the private sector has so far been lukewarm. Not surprising, considering the decision-makers are predominantly male. The old boys fraternity is very much alive in the corporate world.

A simple village woman once said: "By pushing women down in society, and not helping them grow and offer their talents, we have made them bonsai trees. Neither can birds nestle in their branches, nor is the wood of any use."

Women have so much to contribute to the economy - if only men would allow them to do so.

1 comment:

Jen Dalitz said...

Great post about this very important summit. It was an honor to be invited to participate as a speaker, and I agree with your comment that "Women have so much to contribute to the economy"... I would add though that it's not only the men that need to allow us to do so, it's also the women and their social attitudes and desire for change.

If all women - together - support one another in our right for career advancement and speak out for equality, access to the top jobs, and policies and programs that enable women to stay in the workforce including the Minister of Women's proposed paid parental leave scheme - we just might be surprised with what we can achieve.