Workplace diversity: Women feel underrepresented

LAILI ISMAIL

KUALA LUMPUR: More than half of the women in Malaysia felt under-represented in leadership roles, according to a survey carried out by specialist professional recruitment firm Robert Walters, as reported by SMB World Asia.

  The white paper published last year also revealed that 48 per cent of women in the country believed their employers did not have clear and enforced policies on gender equality, diversity and inclusion.

Another study by recruiting expert firm Hays, which polled about 11,500 women and men in the workplace, revealed that 89 per cent of respondents said the most senior person within their organisation was male and 59 per cent said that their line manager was also male.

“Female and male ambition for leadership roles differs vastly, with 68 per cent of women and 85 per cent of men aspiring to reach top leadership positions in their careers.

“Yet almost the same amount, 42 per cent of women and 45 per cent of men, felt there was an opportunity in their current role to promote themselves and communicate their career ambitions,” said the global gender diversity report 2016.

IBM Malaysia managing director Chong Chye Neo said the lack of women leaders in organisations could be attributed to the lack of role models.

“Having a role model is important because once you see more women taking on leadership roles, you can aspire to be like them. When you don’t have a role model, you fear taking on something you think might impact the quality of life you have with your family,” she said.

Inti International University Vice-Chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Rahmah Mohamed said women leaders should make an effort to become mentors and help aspiring women progress in their career.

“We must celebrate female leaders and support them the best way we can,” she said.

Mezza9 Solutions Sdn Bhd managing director Madelaine Chew said women’s perceived traditional roles in society had put the metaphorical glass ceiling in place.

“There shouldn’t be a limit to how far women can go in the work force. Additionally, policies on employees who just started a family should be looked into, so that working mothers are given the support system to stay in the workforce and move forward,” she said.

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said age diversity in the workplace could add depth and breadth on employees’ skill sets as each age group had different range of abilities.

Shamsuddin said employees who had served longer in an organisation would generally get better conditions of employment, including wages.

“Our current system puts a lot of emphasis on seniority, but it does not mean that we are treating younger people or those who had served for shorter durations with disrespect.

“When the company gives better terms based on seniority, it is a retention strategy. Employees would want to stay longer as they look forward to getting better perks and in the process, they are trained for better skills.”

Shamsuddin said, however, companies could not depend only on long-serving employees as there was a need to prepare younger employees for the future.

“It is a natural process. Once you combine the skills with the raw talent, things can be done in a more synergetic way,” he said.