Young Scientists Network (YSN) and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) hosted Inspiring Women in Leadership on 22nd September at Akademi Kepimpinan Pendidikan Tinggi (AKEPT) with panelist from renowned women in positions of leadership in their respective fields including Professor Emerita Datuk Dr Asma Ismail FASc President of ASM, Science Advisor to the Nation & Prime Minister; IR Prof. Dr. Leong Wai Yie, Vice President, International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists (INWES), and Prof. Ts Dr Lim Yang Mooi FASc, Chair from the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) Malaysia National Chapter.
With 40 participants attending the forum including Chrysalis Finalist (final year PhD students) and Young Scientist from YSN (below 43 years old).
Associate Professor Dr Yazrina Yahya, Faculty of Information Science and Technology UKM moderated the session and panelists were invited to share their views on women in leadership in identifying challenges and gender barriers faced by women in leadership.
The panel discussed potential strategies to empower and inspire women, particularly in the field of science where they may be involved in high-level decision-making. Strategies such as a project brief guide for women in leadership and career advancement were also considered in developing and strengthening young women scientists possessing innovative and competent leadership skills to meet 21st-century expectations.
The panel observed that in 2020, the number of females enrolled in public universities was 357,087 making up 61 per cent of enrolment, but are absent from many leadership or decision-making positions. Further the Higher Education Ministry (MoHE) reported 2,372 (48.4%) women associate professors and 650 (34%) women professors in 2020 which is still in the minority. In 2020
In view of this, although there is an increasing trend of women researchers and women’s participation in selected STEM courses in tertiary education in Malaysia, these elements are not reflected in the significant increase of women in leadership roles both in the private and public sectors.
It was observed and acknowledged by the panel that women are still absent from many leadership or decision making positions, even though various policies have been enacted by the government, including national policies which aim to have women holding at least 30% of decision making roles by 2020.
Some of the initiatives introduced by the Government to ensure the sustainability of women in the workforce include comeback programmes by the Ministry of Human Resources and the Action Plan for the Advancement of Women (2010- 2015).
The panel acknowledged that there has also been an emphasis on women and their role in the nation’s development, for example: the National Economic Policy (1971-1990), National Development Policy (1991- 2000) and the National Policy on Women (2009).
Malaysia’s Score in the Global Gender Gap Index 2021, which confirms that the country has managed to close the gap within the education and health sub-index, however, involvement of women in the economic and political fields was still low.
The panel observed that the COVID‑19 pandemic has opened the eyes of the world on the challenges experiences by women especially amongst career women across the world. The widespread closure of schools along with childcare facilities increased the amount of time parents needed to spend on childcare and child supervision forcing many to supervise or lead home schooling.
“Under the government’s movement control order (MCO) where non-essential services and schools have been temporarily shut, women are shown to require assistance for the double burden of caring for their families while working — with single mothers particularly hard hit…” (Malaymail, 2020).
Evidently, much of this additional burden fell on women and the panel concluded that according to statistics from OECD Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) in 2020, women carry out as much as ten times more care work than men. Fulfilling these demands has proved extremely challenging especially for women with careers.
The participants were able to take back with them and glean an understanding of the challenges faced by women in careers. It remains essential therefore that such issues are discussed and addressed in order to enhance women’s achievements and recognize the contributions of women in human capital to the country’s social and economic development.
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