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?
The low participation could be attributed to many women who decide to take a break from their career to focus on family and life. After an extended period of time, they may feel intimidated to re-enter the "rat race", possibly feeling that their skills and knowledge will not be up to par of industry expectations. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that many women are unaware of the avenues available to help them re-enter the workforce.
Organisations can improve the situation by putting in place company policies and systems that support working mothers, such as flexible working hours, childcare provision and the ability to work from home. Allowances such as these go a long way to help women achieve the work life balance that they need.
Businesses should also consider enforcing gender equality practices, such as equal pay grade between men and women, to attract women back into the workforce.
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?
ACCA strongly believes diversity goes beyond visible differences; it is about diversity of experience, knowledge, cultures and backgrounds. By bringing together diverse teams, businesses can expect innovative thinking and encourage productivity that is needed to steer them through economic and global challenges.
ACCA has been very supportive of the gender diversity agenda, a fact that is attested by the many women who hold leadership positions within the organisation. Speaking from my own experience, I have been very fortunate to be able to attend to my family without sacrificing my work commitments, and vice versa. Flexible working hours and the ability to work from home are just some of the practices encouraged in ACCA. It's quite empowering for us, and is one of the reasons why I have enjoyed working at ACCA so much.
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?
As mentioned, ACCA implements flexible working hours and permits staff to work from home. We provide the usual two months' maternity leave, with the option to extend and they will have the assurance that their job is secure and available to them upon their return. Career progression is another factor that ACCA advocates, where all staff irrespective of gender or background, can aspire to a vertical or lateral shift within the organisation. Ultimately, ACCA believes that employees who are confident of their present and their future prospects become valuable long-term contributors to the organisation.
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, ACCA provides FWA. For instance, using the latest technology, virtual meetings can be arranged so that our staff can choose to work from the comfort of their home.
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 favoured or chosen to lead. How does your organisation manage or dismantle these barriers? What can we do together to address this?