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?
A)With regards to the World Bank data, the low LFPR could be due to the exclusion of women who work in the informal sector, including sub-contracted work as well as those "teleworking" and working from home.
B)With regards to the formal labour market, it can be said that women’s approach to work and life is different from men. Women are more sensitive to the needs of family and society. They tend to give way to spousal career advancement, drop out around the time of marriage and childbearing and also when they become care-givers to elderly parents in middle-age or to children with special needs. If they don’t drop out they often reduce work hours or take a wage penalty. There is a high opportunity cost for women to participate in the formal labor market. However the holistic approach to life that balances work, family and society needs is a strength which must be supported and enhanced.
C)Policy interventions need to lower the opportunity costs of participating in the workforce and enable women, especially those in the low income group to stay ahead in their careers. These include quality, affordable and easily accessible early childhood education and care (both community based as well as at the workplace) and preschool education; expansion of public service to home-based care or subsidies for purchased care for the elderly and those with special needs as well as paid family care leave; flexible work arrangements, including part-time, teleworking and working from home; incentives and favourable re-entry policies.
D)There is also a need to increase the level of education and vocational training opportunities for women to encourage their participation in "new" economic activities that are mostly dominated by men as well as much in demand home management services.
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?
A)Studies have shown that companies that consistently rank top in creativity, innovation, productivity and profitability are the ones that are able to deploy and optimise the skills, expertise and talents of all their employees, and not just some of them. Studies have revealed that when women occupy one third of the seats at power tables either in senior management or on corporate boards, profits tend to increase as do returns on investment, sales and productivity. Gender balance in top positions contributes to improved national competitiveness and better business performance.
B)This rule applies to all organisations, in both business and non-business sectors. To promote greater creativity and innovation the best brains with diverse perspectives from all available talent pools must be recruited and retained. Universities, which have a special formative and exemplary role in the development of society need creativity and innovation to address the critical areas of social, economic and political transformation of society. All available talents, experience and expertise are required to steer society through the course of events and emerge as the future we want to see taking shape for our next generation.
C)UKM is fully cognisant that if it ignores women, it is going to lose plenty. It is not only a waste of skills but can also result in gender bias in knowledge and innovation, thus limiting the influence women can have in shaping education and addressing global issues in research and innovation. In valuing gender diversity UKM benefits from the shared experiences of both men and women which are translated to better student learning experiences, teaching, research, community engagement and good governance. Gender diversity promotes awareness and respect issues related to gender issues as well as other diversity matters (ethnicity, age, religion, beliefs, etc.)
3.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?
A)UKM has an outcome based or productivity based policy that is independent of the hours put in at the workplace. As long as the targets of the key performance indicators for each core function are achieved, the ways of attaining them are left for each academic faculty to negotiate with their departments or schools. Flexible work arrangement is the norm so long as they fulfill the academic performance indicators. There is also a policy on migration to ICT for teaching and learning that allows for more flexibility in student-teacher interaction and contact time. Because of the flexible work hours, there is no necessity for re-entry policies because women stay on the job.
B)However for those who have retired and would like to continue contributing in a limited way there are several options available: as part-time lecturers, employment for specific tasks only (eg teaching) with reduced but fixed salary, karyawan tamu or guest writer
C)UKM has established gender diversity as a KPI for quality and is reflected in the balanced score card
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?
A)Apart from flexible work arrangement, UKM has a large early childhood education and care facilities that cater for more than 500 children ranging in age from 90 days to preschool. Called Tunas Permata, the facility is managed by the Faculty of Education.
B)The UKM Board of Directors has also adopted the government circulars regarding maternity and paternity leave, full pay three days off to care for sick children and other family members, 180 days unpaid to take care of a sick child, parent or close relative and compassionate leave upon the death of an immediate family member.
C) UKM also provides medical facilities to all its staff and students, compassionate contribution in terms of services and money to the next of kin upon the death of employees, . contribution in money or kind for new-borns. Family days are encouraged at faculty or departmental level.
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?
A)Leadership in academia progresses by moving up the rungs on the academic ladder sequentially. Many women are not in the conventional pattern of jobs and roles inherent in the well-defined academic hierarchy from division director to department head, dean and then university leadership roles. Women tend to pursue primarily teaching-oriented tasks while the men choose research-oriented positions. The net impact of this choice is that women end up being excluded from the leadership track, given the emphasis on academic publications as a critical factor in leadership appointments in Universities. To break the vicious cycle I have directed search committees to include at least one woman when recommending candidates for positions in the traditional academic hierarchy.
B)Deans and directors of research institutes are held accountable for gender diversity in their institutions. Some have been asked to explain the lack of gender diversity in faculty leadership and to take remedial measures.
C) Personally counselled and "force" women to accepts positions of leadership
D)Established targets for gender diversity as a university KPI.
E)UKM is currently examining promotional policies to explicitly address the issue of career breaks and part-time employment often experienced by people with carer responsibilities; inclusion of non-tradition patterns of achievements and not just be based on numbers of journal and research papers for promotions to leadership positions.
F)Established a Center for Women Leadership to conduct research, publish, engage in advocacy and conduct training progarmmes for women in leadership. Conferences, forum, seminars, talks, exhibitions, film presentations, debates, etc. on gender and leadership issues are regularly held. It has embarked on writing case studies on women leadership to be used in teaching and learning. Postgraduate programmes in Gender studies are well established.
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?
A) Senior women academics are encouraged to guide, mentor and coach younger academics towards leadership positions in both research, teaching and administration, just as I take the responsibility to mentor them and form a substantive collegial relationship so that they don’t feel "shut out" or marginalised. Such associations also boost the self esteem of younger academics and give them more confidence and ambition to accept challenges "to go up the ladder".
B)Self esteem is also boosted by taking extra efforts to recognise and reward women who may not be selected by their colleagues although they are recognised nationally and internationally for their intellect and expertise.
Our Government has implemented policies and even provided funds and assistance to organisations 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 centres at organisations, 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 workforce?
Look beyond the formal workforce. Women are successful as entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship is the bedrock for wealth and job creation for the new economy. The government should aim at increasing the number of sustainable women-owned enterprises that have high value and are continuously generating new ideas and innovative products and services. To achieve this the government should: increase the participation of women in strong growth sectors, set KPIs and targets for women-owned enterprises, fund training programmes to enhance the technical and business skills that match modern enterprises and new economic activities, set aside funding to enable women entrepreneurs and enterprises to generate innovations and technology-based start-ups from collaboration with research and consultancy providers, provide funds, ICT and related support for women-owned SMEs to access local and global business networks that are linked to strong supply chains and distribution channels.