Women in Malaysia often feel as though they have to choose between having a career or having a family, according to findings from a new study by Monster.com.
One third of women said they “agree” or “somewhat agree” that having children affects their career goals and opportunities, while 30 percent of women with children believe they have been held back because of their decision to have kids. A further 28 percent said they were “not sure” if they felt held back.
The study, which surveyed over 700 respondents across the country, aimed to shed light on the challenges women faced in the workplace today. Through this study, Monster.com wants to help employers understand how to bridge this disconnect with female employees and encourage them to consider more family-friendly work arrangements to retain valuable female talent.
The survey also questioned women on their challenges at work. The biggest hurdle was “how they are perceived” by colleagues and clients (41 percent), followed by a lack of opportunity to advance or gain promotion (40 percent) and balancing the demands of work and family (37 percent).
Appallingly, close to 70 percent of Malaysian women also face some form of workplace discrimination. This includes not being considered for advancement and promotions due to gender (41 percent), being “talked down to” by their boss or manager (29 percent), and being questioned about their desire to start a family during the interview process (25 percent).
On top of this, 19 percent of women said they haven’t been given certain responsibilities at work because of their home commitments, while 12 percent have been called names in the office, such as “bossy”, for being assertive.
However, women in Malaysia do seem to have access to some flexibility at work, with more than half (54 percent) being allowed to utilise flexible working hours. While the majority of women aren’t given work from home privileges (47 percent), over a third (34 percent) are.
“Mothers returning to the workforce bring new skills and a new perspective to the workplace, yet they are often overlooked. This somewhat undervalued pool of talent, who often have extensive prior work experience, require minimal adjustments to return to the workforce fulltime. What they need is support, understanding and clear objectives, and goals on their responsibilities and deliverables,” said Sanjay Modi, Managing Director – Monster.com APAC and Middle East.
See: 59% Women in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia Least Satisfied With their Jobs
“Supporting female talent is an effort that extends beyond maternity benefits and will allow employers retain this valuable talent pool. Malaysian employers must tap into this often inactive group, while also considering family-friendly and flexible policies. Beyond just focusing more on attracting and recruiting female talent, employers must invest in retaining, mentoring and promoting women already in the pipeline to reach their full potential.”
While women seem to have caught up with men with regards to education, gender disparity in the workplace still remains a concern across the region, discrimination and pressure to perform both at home and at work takes an emotional toll on them.
We can’t deny the popular belief in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines is still that mothers are the family caregivers, and they are expected to prioritise childcare above everything else. The cultural importance placed on being the model mother and working within the corporate culture, that demands long work hours makes motherhood challenging for women, keen on building their careers.
The study highlights that more active discussions on gender parity, speaking out at the right time, recognising and removing stereotypes, and bias in relation to family and caring responsibilities is more important than ever.
The biggest concern in today’s times when productivity is low, and there’s shortage of skills is, the loss in terms of human potential when these women don’t make it to the top of their fields. There are organisations that unduly reward long hours and inclination to prioritise jobs over all other aspects of life.
This not only hinders career advancement for both women and men in the long run but also fosters an unhealthy work culture. Flexibility and empathy with a keen eye on performance and results is the key.
“We need an increased focus on developing diversity-friendly management practices and priorities. Sharing timely feedback, mentoring and strong corporate policies are some of the ways to help women and mothers advance their careers,” Modi added.
In a bid to show support and encourage more mothers to re-join the workforce, Monster Malaysia recently launched the #SheMakesItWork campaign to raise greater awareness on issues women across Southeast Asia face at work.
Click here to view official campaign video, featuring four women at various phases of motherhood who share their struggles and provide advice for all women facing a similar situation.
Also read: Efforts to Increase Number of Malaysian Women in Workforce Shows Great Progress: Dr Wee Ka Siong
Feature image credit: Huffingtonpost.com