Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the top women executives in Malaysia who are part of Talent Corp’s Career Comeback Programme, an initiative designed to encourage and facilitate women to return to the workforce after a career break for various reasons which includes maternity and family.
Listening to their stories, it is heartening to know that more and more companies are answering the government’s call to increase women’s participation in our work force. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for example, was first among the Big Four to announce 90 days maternity leave for its female employees, Sunway Group has recorded 26% of women in senior management levels while CIMB Group has also been making strides with their Staff Rejuvenation Programme.
Initiatives like these have allowed talented career women such as Anna Marina Chen to successfully return to the workforce without compromising her commitment to her family and her work. Anna had put her career on hold for approximately 16 months to care for her daughter after facing numerous challenges in getting the right caregiver but was able to re-join her former company UEM Sunrise Berhad due to its flexible working arrangement.
There is also the inspiring story of Chong Chye Neo, who had taken a long leave of absence not once, but twice throughout her career to care for her children and both times she was able to return to IBM without compromising her position or salary. IBM has been exemplary in allowing talented career women such as Chong Chye Neo to have flexible working arrangements and it has proven to be a worthwhile investment as she is now the first woman to take on the role of managing director in IBM Malaysia.
Examples such as these are inspiring. They are living proof that both companies and employees stand to benefit from flexible working arrangements.
Talent Corp’s role in the recruitment and retention of women in corporate Malaysia through the Career Comeback Programme and the flexWorkLife.my initiative is indeed commendable.
I would also like to congratulate corporations such as BASF Asia Pacific Service Centre, CIMB Group, IBM Malaysia, IHS Global, Intel, PwC Malaysia, Sunway and UEM Group, who are clearly leading Corporate Malaysia in embracing the diversity and inclusiveness agenda.
The Female Labour Participation Rate is currently at 54.1%, which translates to about 700,000 women in the labour force, women now hold 26.3% of top management positions as of 2015 according to Bursa Malaysia. These are results of the introduction of various initiatives to support and unlock the economic potential in women.
I have long been an advocate of gender diversity and family friendly policies, and with the advancement of technology, it is now easier than ever to make this a norm in our workforce, giving employees the flexibility not just to attend to their personal needs, but also to rejuvenate their minds.
As we march towards 2020, I would like to encourage the private sector to embrace family-friendly policies and gender diversity in their work force.
In achieving the developed economy status, we must also ensure that all segments of society feel that they too belong to this. Not just women, but also the B40 of our society. It is only then that our economic advancements will have a real meaning to it. No one must be left behind.