In Malaysia, women are thriving in the workforce more than ever. The proof is in the numbers – TalentCorp reported that there was an increase of women in the labour force, from 5.6 million in 2015 to 5.7 million in 2016.
Whether you’re a female leader climbing up the ladder, or an industry newbie navigating the workforce, there will always be barriers from performing your best at work. We spoke to various women about the career challenges they face in the workplace, and how companies should address them.
A career challenge that is easily overlooked, gender biases do exist in the workplace. To paraphrase its definition, gender biases revolves around ‘an unequal treatment in employment opportunity based on the sex of an employee, ranging from promotion to pay’.
While copywriter Jen Thong felt that fair gender equality exists in her workplace, she noticed a certain bias in non-apparent ways such as housekeeping duties.
“I have repetitively observed certain biases in this matter. It may be simple things like bringing a cup of coffee for a visiting client or setting up the lunch table for a day-long meeting, but so often I notice an automatic dependence on female employees to get these done”.
Jen believes the best way to address the issue is for companies to increase the awareness of the underlying gender biases. “Managers have to be more gender-aware when it comes to requests towards occupational duties and treats fellow employees equally”.
A majority of working mothers who juggle between managing their household and day job strive for work-life balance. For working mothers like Ummy and Sabrina, the flexible working arrangement is a much-needed option to fulfil their work obligations and family commitments at their own pace.
Freelance psychologist Ummy says that work-life balance is instrumental in bringing her best in her personal and professional lives. “It’s about trying to perform at work, and at the same time, listing my kids’ meals and planning in advance to meet the needs of others at home. Did I mention, trying to look physically decent too? How do mothers do it, honestly?”
To overcome this issue, internal communications executive Sabrina feels companies have what it takes to find a middle ground that complements both work and family schedules.
“Companies can look into flexible working arrangements that could benefit both the company and employees. For example, providing the options for working remotely when necessary or flexible working hours within a certain time frame,” she suggests.
When it comes to salaries, closing the wage gap between male and female employees has been a popular subject of discussion. A fair way to measure an employee’s salary is using performance or experience-based metrics, as suggested by senior web developer Sarah. When she discovered her junior is earning significantly higher than her, she was overwhelmed by feelings of unjust.
“I feel companies should measure their employee’s salary based on professional experience or work performance. I know some people market themselves or negotiate better than the rest. However, that will put an introvert, like me, in an unfair advantage. It’s time for companies to use fair measures to determine the salaries of their employees”.
With more women spearheading the workforce in Malaysia, it’s important for companies to recognise the career challenges that exist in their workplace. Whether the issue revolves around gender biases, work-life balance or wage gap, it’s vital for companies to step up and play their part in creating a supportive workplace for their employees, regardless of their gender.
Do you feel oppressed in the workplace because of your gender? Let us know in the comments below!
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