According to the World Bank, participation by women in the workforce in Malaysia stands at 46%, which is low by international standards compared to neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. What do you think are the reasons and how can organisations tackle this situation?
Women today continue to remain disproportionately affected by societal pressures which require the flexibility and ability to multi-task. An example is the expectation that women carry the primary burden as care givers for the children or elderly parents, and continue to remain the home maker while working. This social conditioning and lack of empathy from organisations further cause women to lack the capacity to succeed in the work place. Statistics continue to highlight women routinely encounter bias in the workplace in large enough numbers (55% in India, 48% in China, and 40% in Brazil) while leads to women disengaging or leaving the workforce altogether, translated to a loss of valuable talent.
Corporate history has proven that companies that make it a corporate policy to tap into the women in their workforce benefit from the diverse talents and perspectives they bring and are the most successful. These organisations provide an environment that women can thrive in. At Shell we continue to recognise the collective strength of a diverse workforce that serves an increasingly diverse marketplace and take great care to weave diversity and inclusion (D&I) into the very fabric of our inclusion strategies and plans, with a particular focus on women. Up to 38% of the 6800+ employees at Shell Malaysia are women. The senior management team comprises of 31% of women.
Gender diversity has become a priority agenda item for policymakers and business leaders internationally. How can gender diversity add value to your organisation? How can it add or improve business and financial performance?
Shell sees diversity as a prerequisite for maintaining a healthy and innovative working environment and we believe it is important to cultivate a staff as diverse as possible, without attaching any specific importance to gender, ethnic background, nationality, sexual orientation, religion and age. Our CEO Peter Voser has stated that: "There's no better way for a company to put itself into the customer's shoes than to have a workforce that reflects the customer base. And we know our customer base is ever changing, with a growing number of women in decision-making positions." So our diverse workforce helps us be more competitive because we make products and deliver services that better reflect what our customers want, across the globe.
It has been reported that gender balance at the workplace leads to more innovation and better bottom line performance. An Eversheds Board Report in 2010 and a McKinsey & Co review both affirm that better performing companies tend to have a higher percentage of female directors.
Does your organisation have any policy or KPIs emphasising on female talents? What systems or tools has your organisation put in place to attract women on career hiatus to rejoin the workforce?
Globally, the long term commitment is to increase the proportion of women in senior management to at least 20%. Shell continues to provide equal opportunity at all levels and balances the external availability and internal development of female talents. At the same time, the company remains committed to providing an environment that is supportive of women in the workplace.
Nowadays, flexible work arrangements (FWA) and support facilities are preferred by women with families. Does your organisation provide these? If yes, can you share more details on these?
Yes, Shell has a full suite of flexible arrangements that are made available to our employees including:-
- A career break up to 3 years - to allow one to spend more time with their families & manage personal needs.
- A third month half pay following maternity leave - to support the mother & new born in bonding.
- Flexibility in work hours - employees will have the prerogative to establish a pattern of core working hours with the support from the supervisor.
- A part-time working arrangement - provides employment opportunities for employees who are not able to work on a full time basis. This flexibility allows employees to choose preferred working patterns.
- Working outside the office - flexibility given to work at a preferred location (e.g. at home) on either ad hoc or regular basis to balance work and personal needs.
Separately, we also provide a platform for women to share best practices and generate support to progress in the workplace through D & I initiatives such as the Shell Women's Action Network (SWAN), and mentoring and buddy systems. Shell Malaysia senior leaders and supervisors are fully supportive of the arrangements and continue to ensure of its implementation across all levels of the organisation. We are proud to note that the arrangement is very much appreciated and acknowledged by all, leading to a happy and productive workforce.
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?
At Shell, we have a range of targeted programs and initiatives to achieve our goals and to attract and retain talented women. These programs and initiatives ensure that our female employees are well supported, have access to learning and development opportunities, are rewarded for what they do, and are well connected for the next stage of their career. We do this by:-
a. Providing an encouraging work environment where the senior leaders take an active interest in the careers of our female talent and help them manage issues that are unique to women and the female workforce.
b. Having role models in other senior female leaders and creating and promoting programmes that cater to women development, e.g. "the Women Development workshop" where women employees can learn from other in-house senior leaders.
c. Our unique mentoring and buddy system of women means that we are enabling talented people to thrive and creating inclusive teams that maximise collective potential.
d. Encouraging good health and well-being and safety above anything else. We firmly acknowledge that employees who are mentally and physically healthy are more likely to be engaged, committed and productive in all aspects of life.