According to the World Bank, participation by women in the workforce in Malaysia stands at 46%, which is low by international standards compared to neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. What do you think are the reasons and how can organizations tackle this situation?
We see more women in their 20s joining the Malaysian workforce but leaving as soon as they have family commitments because of work life balance issues and unclear career pathways.
At Accenture, we are committed to supporting our employees' professional goals and aspirations by offering them different options to build their careers in the firm. Globally, nearly 35 percent or more than 80,000 employees in Accenture's workforce are women. Two internal training programs targeted at women that I would like to highlight are Accenture's Developing High Performing Women aimed at top-performing managers at critical career points, and Maximizing Performance: Women and Client Centricity for senior managers. Accenture however does not focus solely on women but gives equal opportunities to our men.
This includes initiatives such as flexible work arrangements, rewards and recognition, as well as benefits and compensation. It promotes better understanding on diversity and respects each individual's needs. So, a mother or a father is entitled to take time off to bring their unwell child to see the doctor, subject to project commitments. That way, both parents have the opportunity to share the responsibility of raising the family.
Gender diversity has become a priority agenda item for policymakers and business leaders internationally. How can gender diversity add value to your organization? How can it add or improve business and financial performance?
At Accenture, we take the widest possible view of inclusion and diversity, going beyond gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to create a work environment that welcomes all forms of differences. Each employee is a respected member of our team; we recognize and value individual similarities and differences. Our workforce is a reflection of the clients we serve.
Inclusion and diversity are fundamental to our culture and core values, fostering an innovative and collaborative work environment that helps our people to be successful and enables Accenture to effectively compete in the global marketplace. Combining our employees' diverse perspectives with our common values is a powerful differentiator for Accenture.
However, our goal is for both women and men to benefit from the workplace where both genders are welcomed and included. By developing diversity, we will harvest the positive impacts of a diverse workplace, where people from different backgrounds and experiences, with different ways of thinking, generate greater synergy and more creative answers, inspiring each other every day. Diversity is a key ingredient in helping our clients and company achieve high performance.
Does your organization have any policy or KPIs emphasizing on female talents? What systems or tools has your organization put in place to attract women or career hiatus to rejoin the workforce?
Nowadays, flexible work arrangements (FWA) and support facilities are preferred by women with families. Does your organization provide these? If yes, can you share more details on these? If not, can you share your and your organization's view on FWA and support facilities? Would you propose and implement any of the FWA or support facilities in your organization? If you do, which will your management team support to take-up?
Accenture's commitment to attracting, retaining and advancing the women who work with us is critical to being a high-performance business and supports our broad commitment to an inclusive and diverse workplace.
As more women pursue careers in business and technology, Accenture has created unique programs to support our women, such as International Women's Day which has been observed at Accenture since 2001. International Women's Day is about women, but it is not just for women. A significant number of our Accenture men participate in Accenture's International Women's Day events. Our celebrations give employees around the globe an opportunity to have conversations about how to achieve their professional and personal goals while defining success. Through Accenture's activities and events at offices and client sites, International Women's Day underscores our dedication to engaging the best people from diverse backgrounds to deliver high performance.
Accenture invests significantly in training and professional development to build the next generation of leaders. We offer training programs geared towards women to equip them with the tools necessary to reach the highest levels of the Company. These programs are geared towards helping women become more effective managers so that they can achieve their career goals and be aware of how gender can impact negotiating and how their style affects business transactions and careers.
Besides that, Accenture provides opportunities for women employees to connect virtually with Accenture executives in Defining Success Forums, learning personal approaches to managing various aspects of their career journeys. We also have a web-based tool which helps Accenture women create a blueprint for defining their personal success. By taking part in this, women gain a clearer understanding of what is important to them personally, what they value most and where they derive their greatest satisfaction.
We know how important workplace flexibility is to enable our employees to strike a balance between their work and personal life. Accenture offers a flexible approach-giving options for how, and where, our employees do their work. We also provide innovative communication and collaboration tools to help increase our employees' productivity, efficiency and flexibility.
Accenture recognizes that our employees lead busy, full lives with a variety of time demands. By providing the option of these flexible arrangements, we can attract and retain the most intelligent, skilled workforce available. We have various policies, guidelines and tools in place, providing best practices to help individuals understand how encouraging flexibility and balance between work and personal life enhances, rather than impedes, productivity.
The flexible work arrangements we offer at Accenture include:
- Telecommuting/home working: Enables employees to work from a location other than an Accenture office or project site. This can reduce the time, costs and stress of commuting for employees while helping Accenture control and often reduce the cost of fixed office space.
- Other work arrangements: Job sharing, Part time working facilities, extended weekends at home, extended client/home location, etc. Optional
Flex time schedule: Allows employees to vary their start and finish times around predetermined core hours, or work their standard hours in fewer than five days by varying the length of each workday.
What do you think are the key factors to encourage women to aspire to leadership and climb the career ladder? Can you share tools or systems that you have implemented successfully in-house that cater to leadership in women?
On the other hand, there are companies that have equal opportunity tools and systems in place. Despite these, barriers to opportunity may still exist due to women's own issues and biases, for example lack of confidence to compete together with men for job progression and opportunities, or their impression that men will be favored or chosen to lead. How does your organization manage or dismantle these barriers? What can we do together to address this?
Both men and women in general have similar insight affecting them in the workplace – wanting better compensation, challenging assignments, flexible work arrangements and leadership positions. However, women are more likely to sacrifice their careers for their families.
My mother joined the police force in 1960. As a police prosecutor, she successfully juggled family life with work. The support system in the 70s and 80s was a close knit network of family members and my mother's friends. But we formed strong bonds and I grew up knowing my mother's friends. Today, women like me are more fortunate with better support systems, accreditation, infrastructure and information in place.
With more Gen Ys coming in, today's workforce is seeing a very different dynamics than 15 years ago, when I was first starting out my career. Employees, especially women, no longer shy away from expressing their dissatisfaction of unfavorable working environments. Instead of job hunting, we find that employees are more proactive. They will find ways to improve their skill sets and seek the training, resources and people who can help them reach their goals at their workplace.
At Accenture, every employee is assigned an experienced career counselor to guide them along their career journey and ensure that they are on the right track. Aside from regular surveys, this is one way Accenture listens to our employees. The valuable feedback helps us create a culture that encourages mentoring and develops diverse teams that provide new experiences and offer volunteer opportunities that engage our people. So, organizations should take note of their employees' feedback and where possible, put them into action.
Our Government has implemented policies and even provided funds and assistance to organizations in order to retain and call back women to re-join the workforce. In line with this objective, our Prime Minister has announced the Double Tax Incentive for compliant companies which will be launched in 2013, fund allocation and assistance for child care centers at organizations, a microsite to connect women with companies that have jobs with flexible work arrangements and support facilities, and other incentives are in the pipeline. What else can the Government do to encourage companies to attract and retain women in the workplace?
On my wish list would be significant benefits for women such as higher EPF contributions and lower income tax especially for those with children, and an increased duration of maternity leaves which companies could help subsidize together with the Government. The Government should also emphasize how it values women's contributions to the country and the economy. A study could be conducted with a university on how women have increasingly contributed to society from Malaya's independence in 1957 till today.