Transforming women in leadership
Published on: Thursday, February 16, 2017

JAIPUR: Worldwide concern over the lack of women in leadership positions across a variety of occupations both professional and non- professional, continues to plague many countries.Making this observation, Higher Education Deputy Minister Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching said Malaysia is no exception as it has a large number of female workforce in all sectors and industries but few women are visible in leadership roles.

Malaysia has a total population of 31.66 million whereby 15.3 million are women. Within the labour force participation rates (LFPR), at a total of 67.9pc, the male LFPR stands at 80.6pc while female LFPR is 54.1pc, a steady increase from an average of 46pc between 2001 and 2007.

Speaking at the Plenary Session at the Seminar on Women's Higher Education For Leadership and Social Innovation at the ITC Rajputana Palace, here, in India, Yap, who is Member of Parliament for Tawau, said :

"While overall gender ratio of the Malaysian labour force is at 60:40 in terms of men to women, at the executive level, it's almost 50:50 between women and men in the workforce.

"I would attribute this to a number of factors, including better education, more service sector jobs that are women-friendly, rise of micro enterprises and flexible work arrangements. Although this is very encouraging, it was quickly realised that women are not really filling up the many senior leadership roles in industries, nor in the government agencies. Thus it is crucial for Malaysia to prepare her women for leadership roles and positions."

In her paper on Redesigning Malaysia's Higher Education : Transforming : Transforming Women in Leadership, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education asserted Malaysia's commitment to ensure the success of its higher education system.

In his 2017 mandate speech, the Higher Education Minister Dato' Seri Idris Jusoh reiterated the importance of moving with technology and introducing flexible education by announcing a concept of `Redesigning Higher Education'.

"In support of these efforts, an integrated cumulative grade point average (iCGPA) system that is not focused solely on academic outcomes, but reflects the holistic and balanced mastery of knowledge and soft skills was developed.

"We have also introduced the 2U21 system that requires students to spend two to three years at the university and one to two years in the industry. These initiatives would equip the students with an additional advantage in seeking employability after graduation," she said.

Yap, who was accompanied by Prof Dr Raha Abdul Rahim (Head of Research and Institutional Excellence of the Universities Division), recalled that back in 2011, the Malaysian government had announced a target for women to represent 30pc of decision-making positions in the corporate sector by end of 2016.

"As of June 2016, women accounted for only 15.2pc of Director's positions in the top 100 listed companies in Bursa Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange)."

This lopsided scenario, she said, is similar to a recent report by New York Times, that among the largest US companies, there are more CEOs called John than there are Mary.

"Similarly, in the Institutions of Higher Education Malaysia, the total number of female lecturers is still less than male lecturers at 35,349 female to 41,365 male. However, in the 20 public universities, where the numbers of female lecturers are higher than their male counterparts at 17,081 to 14,796, there are currently only four female Vice-Chancellors," Yap lamented.

But the other side of the coin is that while women are significantly under-represented in the boardroom and as chief executive officers (CEOs), there are increasingly more women in top management.

"Within our 20 public universities, women hold 19pc of the top management posts of deputy vice chancellor, bursar and registrar. In addition, 31.3pc or 73 out of 233 of all the Faculty Deans are women.

There is also an increasing number of women appointed as Board Members of the Universities.

"One other consolation is that in the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia, the Deputy Minister, the Secretary-General and the new Director-General of the Higher Education Department are also women," she said.

Her paper aims to highlight the path taken by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia, including the new and future initiatives, to produce and empower women into new and existing leadership roles in Malaysia.

Given the prevailing situation in Malaysia, Yap stressed that Malaysia has taken the initiative to ensure that her education system is well-planned and strategically designed to include innovations which will nurture women towards assuming leadership roles across all sectors and industries, rather than leaving it to chance.

"Hence, higher education is viewed as a catalyst for developing women in leadership roles," she said.

Towards this end, one of the objectives of Malaysia's Higher Education policy is to increase the capacity of women in senior roles in research, education, business and society at large.

"This is advocated in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) to, among other things, transform the education system into one that produces thinking and innovative individuals (including women) to meet the needs of the new Malaysian economy," she explained.

Yap said an important initiative under this Blueprint is to produce balanced, holistic and entrepreneurial graduates by implementing an integrated cumulative grade point average (iCGPA) system.

"This system does not only focus on academic outcomes, but reflects the holistic and balanced mastery of knowledge and soft skills in promulgating talent excellence for the purpose of increasing the number of women in leadership roles in Malaysia.

"Therefore, this entails redesigning the higher education system to drive home the importance of having women leaders in all rungs of society," she said.

The Malaysia Education Blueprint is formulated based on the vision and aspiration of the Malaysian Education Development plan. Yap said one of the initiatives under the Higher Education Blueprint is to produce balanced, holistic and entrepreneurial graduates. "Although not specifically targeting the female students, it aspires to offer students a holistic education that focuses on six primary attributes: Ethics and Spirituality, Leadership Skills, National Identity, Language Proficiency, Thinking Skills and Knowledge."

In her conclusion, Yap said with the redesigning of higher education, Malaysia will move forward in empowering women to achieve gender equality in leadership and social innovation.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia is supportive of this view, and has said that harnessing the talent and energy of women as equal partners is crucial to building the desired high-income and high-productivity economy.

"Our country's Agenda 2030 in its aim towards sustainable and inclusive development is committed to continuously seeking integrated solutions to advance women's leadership, influence and impact by empowering them accordingly," she added.

Some 150 people from public and private universities from all over the world attended the seminar organised by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Singapore, and hosted by the University of Banasthali, a university for women students. - Mary Chin


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