Archive for the ‘Gender Gap’ Category

Let’s get more women into aviation, says AirAsia CEO.

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Although low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd and its long-haul sister company AirAsia X Bhd already have quite a number of women on board as pilots and engineers, it wants more.

The two companies have a total of 54 female pilots and 69 female engineers, but they are still actively trying to get more girls interested in pursuing careers in the aviation industry, said AirAsia Bhd chief executive officer Aireen Omar.

“We are working with (educational non-governmental organisation) Teach For Malaysia to bring students to our facility so that they can see what we do, learn about the women in AirAsia, get to experience our simulators, talk to our staff, and actually discover the opportunities available to them,” she said.

However, there was still so much to do to boost the participation of girls in science and technology, she said during her talk at the Women do Wonders (WOW) Talks and Bazaar at SEGi University in Kota Damansara here Sunday.

Aireen also highlighted AirAsia’s conviction that #girlscandoanything, pointing to the all-women crew of AK5110 that flew from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu last month.

When she showed a picture and named all the women on that flight, from the pilot and cabin crew to the flight dispatchers and technicians, there was a huge roar of approval from the floor.

“This is actually very common at AirAsia because we believe that all our colleagues, regardless of gender, are capable of anything.

“Everyone comes from such diverse backgrounds, races and nationalities, but we all come together and work together,” she said.

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Sandakan Girls Guides Local Association celebrates World Thinking Day

Monday, February 27th, 2017

SANDAKAN: The Sandakan Girl Guides Local Association celebrated the World Thinking Day at the Girl Guides Headquarters here on Sunday.

The activities held included joint cake cutting by leaders to launch the celebration, seed planting, choir and dance performances, award presentation, carnival and bazaar.

Sandakan Girl Guides Local Association district commissioner, Wong Chien Ha delivered the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) 2017 World Thinking Day message to start off the celebration.

World Thinking Day is celebrated by Girl Guides across the world on Feb 22 each year. It is a day of international friendship and solidarity.

This year’s theme is Grow. We believe that every girl should have the chance to grow, learn and reach her potential. We believe that more girls should be able to be part of the Girl Guide and Girl Scout movement, Wong said.

“We want to grow our World Thinking Day celebration in 2017 and invite more girls and young women to experience what it means to be a part of our movement,” Wong added.

Wong said there are approximately 800 million girls around the world and only 10 million of them are Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. We want to reach even more girls.

World Thinking Day is the perfect opportunity to show the world how amazing it is to be a Girl Guide or Girl Scout and to encourage more young people to get involved, she continued.

“The World Thinking Day 2017 activity pack will help us think about growth in our community. It has been designed to be used throughout the year by our Girl Guide and Girl Scout to help us attract new potential members to meetings and grow our Movement,” Wong said.

Since 1932 World Thinking Day has also been an important opportunity to raise funds to support World WAGGGS across the world.

“The World Thinking Day Fund supports WAGGGS to deliver life-changing opportunities for girls around the world. Donations can help us to grow and reach more girls and young women. In 2017, we invite you to donate to the fund online, through our JustGiving Page, CAF Donate button or,” Wong said.


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Towards an equal world

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Too often, women do not get full credit for their work. Isn’t it time to highlight their contribution, dedication and capability?

I RECENTLY saw the movie, Hidden Figures. The movie only premiered in Malaysia this past week, a fortnight or so before International Women’s Day on March 8.

Based on true events, the movie is a narrative of three African-American women who were working with the US space programme in the 1960s. It highlights the negative impacts of segregation and ra­cism, and showcases the true American Dream, where anything is possible.

What resonated most with me, however, is the gender aspect. More than 50 years later, women scientists such as I can attest to having had the same experience as Kathe­rine Johnson (née Goble), Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article on the “Dark Lady of DNA”, Rosalind Franklin.

Rosalind should have gone down in history as one of the individuals who discovered the molecular structure of the DNA. After all, she perfected the x-ray diffraction technique that led to the now famous Photo 51, i.e. photo of the double-helical structure.

We are all too familiar with cre­diting Watson and Crick for this discovery. Historically, however, the “hidden figure” of Rosalind Franklin was there, labouring hours in the laboratory and being exposed to radioactive materials required for such experiments.

In Watson’s autobiography, The Double Helix, Rosalind was des­cribed as “difficult to work with”, and in a separate interview, ano­ther of her colleagues, Professor Emeritus Aaron Klug, described her as “lacking the imagination required … to have solved the puzzle as Watson and Crick did”.

Due to her untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1958, she missed out on the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine 1962 awarded to James Watson, Francis Crick and – get this – her laboratory supervisor Maurice Wilkins, despite the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation sta­­ting that the Nobel cannot be awarded posthumously only ha­­ving taken effect in 1974.

If one were to read between the lines of Watson’s book, it not only described the nail-biting race to solve the molecular structure of the DNA between Watson-Crick and Linus Pauling’s laboratory, but also provided the evidence of an “all gentlemen’s club” in science. In the same book, Watson later added an epilogue where he made amends with Rosalind, employing her and noted that her abhorrence for a collaboration back then was due to the sexism she faced in the acade­mic community.

However, from personal expe­rience, all is still not well in science. Women scientists are often acknowledged as excellent technicians, but sexism and the gender privilege awarded to men are still prevalent.

Women scientists are expected to work harder – stories of professors who went straight to work from their hospital beds after labour and working through their maternity leaves are legendary, but expected. A colleague of mine once even used her newborn baby as an experimental sample – such is the dedication expected from women scientists.

The women in Hidden Figures conform to the feminine gender identity, are wives and mothers, and received support from their own mothers, spouses, children and each other.

Not all women are fortunate to have such a support system, with single women, women who are gay, women who do not conform to the accepted societal definition of “fe­­minine” and “pretty”, and women who are vocal finding the glass cei­ling a lot harder to crack.

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More ‘honest conversations’ needed with Gen Y-ers

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) corporate sector head Jamie Lyon.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) corporate sector head Jamie Lyon

WE need to talk.

No, not about a relationship break-up. This is about maintaining relationships – between bosses and staff, between an organisation and its employees.

With many young Malaysian employees expressing interest in working overseas, perhaps it is time for more Malaysian bosses to discuss their workers’ plans for the future openly.

Saying that it is a common mistake not to have such discussions, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) corporate sector head Jamie Lyon recommends that bosses have more “honest conversations” with their workers to understand and tackle issues.

“Employers need to find out how quickly people want to move, how many want to and what roles they plan to move to.

“For young employees, they question whether they will be getting any career development.

“How do employers tackle that? They start by having honest conversations with their employees. Ask them: what do you want from your career and what can we do as an organisation to support you in that?” he explains.

Lyon adds that employers should also think about offering their staff more coaching and mentoring.

“This is a generation that wants personalised interventions. They want that collaboration to happen.

“I think just talking to this generation, ensuring conversations flow through leadership and making leadership accessible to them is key, along with breaking hierarchies,” he says.

To harness the entrepreneurial streak in Gen Y-ers, Lyon also encourages employers to tap such interests by offering lateral moves within an organisation.

“If someone comes in as a finance person, it doesn’t mean they have to stay as that. Both employers and workers can consider a rotation or secondment in roles and see how such talent can be honed,” he suggests, adding that it is up to organisations to think creatively about creating opportunities for their staff to grow.

Giving a pay rise to workers may help entice them to stay, but Lyon believes that this is a short-term solution and companies should be thinking of more long-term, holistic solutions.

“If people are going to be happy in their careers, something has to be done about it. The irony is even though we live in a global knowledge economy, the biggest asset of a company is its people,” he points out.

As for his advice to Malaysian youth, Lyon encourages them to think out of the box.

“Sometimes, people think the better option is to go somewhere else. Start by having honest conversations with your employer. Think also about what options you have, not just by leaving office, but about how to build a portfolio of skills, which will be relevant in the future world of work,” he says.

While acknowledging that more open discussions should be held, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan admits Malaysian bosses aren’t very open with employees.

“We are very conservative in this area. But this should be one of our long-term goals,” he says.

Shamsuddin, however, says more employers are becoming more open with their workers, but this usually happens in bigger firms, and, “the reality in Malaysia is that 98% of employers run small and medium sized enterprises”, he says.

Shamsuddin observes that Gen Y-ers generally do not like to be monitored a lot and tend to prioritise a healthy work-life balance.

“As such, if Malaysian employers want to retain young talent in the long run, they are encouraged to create an attractive environment for this group to excel, including allowing them a certain amount of flexibility,” he says.

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Gen Y ‘does not want to rely on crutches to succeed’

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

THE new generation of Malays does not want to rely on a tongkat (crutch) to succeed, said the Wellington Umno Overseas Club.

Afiq Adham Muhammad Fadhil, an undergraduate, said Gen Y and Gen Z, especially young professionals and those studying abroad, preferred a narrative from Umno that would give them hope in charting their own future and that of the country.

He cited the 2050 National Transformation (TN50), announced during Budget 2017, that was aimed at kickstarting a national discourse by young Malaysians of all races.

TN50 has been entrusted to the Youth and Sports Ministry under Khairy Jama­lud­din.

“TN50 is an important effort to change the perception of this generation,” he said, adding that the vision matched the aspirations of the young generation.

Debating the motion of thanks on the president’s keynote address, Afiq Adham said: “I believe that my peers, who had stayed away from the party, will soften their stance now that TN50 was on its way.

The new generation of young people wanted to be given a chance to play a bigger role in making TN50 a success, he added.

He appealed to the Umno leadership to produce more young icons for them to look up to.

Likening TN50 and the will to transform Malaysia to “a pick-up line, money, perfume and trendy clothes”, he said what was needed now were inspiring icons.

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We’re on track

Sunday, November 20th, 2016
Holistic approach: Azizah feels it is important to look at a person’s capabilities, regardless of their gender, to add value to an organisation’s decision-making process.

Holistic approach: Azizah feels it is important to look at a person’s capabilities, regardless of their gender, to add value to an organisation’s decision-making process.

BY 2020, Malaysia aims to have at least 30% women in decision-making roles.

The policy to reduce gender imbalance and recognise women’s contributions, especially in publicly listed companies (PLCs), was introduced in 2011 under the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015). The target was extended to 2020 in the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020).

While acknowledging that progress has been slow, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry Deputy Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun insists that Malaysia is doing well in pressing forward.

When the policy was announced, only 7.7% of top corporate sector decision-makers were women. As at June this year, the figure stands at 11.5%. The public sector, however, has exceeded the target with an impressive 36% of women in top positions.

“The target is not easy to achieve. Even the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Germany and many other developed countries with a similar policy haven’t achieved their targets.

“But we won’t use this as an excuse. In fact, we’ll continue our efforts and learn from other countries to achieve our goal in the next four years.”

In the country’s overall labour force gender ratio, men outnumber women at 60:40. At the managerial level, the ratio of men to women stands at 70:30. At the executive level, women fare better with a higher ratio of 45:55.

Women must be given the opportunity to contribute to the national economy, Azizah points out.

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There’s no place for sex in healthcare

Monday, July 11th, 2016

A good doctor is about training.

A good doctor is about expe­rience.

A good doctor is about empathy.

Female or male, a good doctor is just a good doctor.

So how does the suggestion that allowing only female doctors assist in childbirths improve healthcare in Malaysia, or anywhere for that matter?

It does not.

This is by no means the first time that such an idea has been mooted, and it will probably not be the last, but the very idea that the sex of a doctor makes him or her suitable at the job is perplexing – and that should really be the issue at hand.

Maybe some of us are confused about the terms sex and gender. The words are often used interchangeably, though they are distinctly different.

Sex is based on biological differences in anatomy and physiology.

Gender, on the other hand, is a classification based on cultural conventions, a social construct that defines the roles and behaviours of men and women.

This gender classification has inevitably given rise to much chagrin and debate in many different facets of life, as it has now.

It’s a fact that some women are more comfortable with a female obstetrician and gynaecologist (ob/gyn).

Some believe that having a doctor of the opposite gender affects their female modesty, as proscribed by religious edicts.

Many feel that because of the intimate nature of the speciality, a female doctor who has physically undergone the same experience would be more understanding of what they’re going through.

Others have no such qualms, preferring a male ob/gyn instead of a female one, oftentimes because they believe male doctors are more sympathetic and patient towards female patients.

These are personal preferences based on trust and how patients interact with their doctors, preferences that help each woman ease her journey into motherhood.

Ob/gyns recognise this phenomenon, and though they may vary in their response to it, they take it as part and parcel of their vocation.

And how far do you take such a gender-based bias in healthcare anyway? Surgery? Urology? Derma­to­logy? Every aspect of healthcare delivery?

Shouldn’t the primary factors in choosing a doctor come down to their expertise, professionalism and compassion, not their sex or gender?

Let’s not ever involve sex or gender in the issue of healthcare delivery.

Former secretary-general of the United Nations and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Kofi Annan, once said: “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”

There are many pressing issues in Malaysian healthcare that need to be addressed. This is not one of them.

The Star Says.

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WAO: Increase in domestic abuse tied to rise in population

Monday, July 11th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: The number of domestic violence cases is seeing a progressive increase in tandem with the population, says Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

Its executive director Sumitra Visvanathan, however, said the exact cause for the rise was attributed to many factors.

“We are not sure whether this means that it is becoming more prevalent in our community or there is more awareness and knowledge among women on where they can go to seek help.

“The society needs to address the root cause of the issue, which is inequality between men and women, to completely eliminate or reduce domestic violence in the country,” she said.

Sumitra was responding to statements by Kuala Lumpur Hospital which recorded a monthly increase in cases referred to its one-stop crisis centre.

Kuala Lumpur Hospital Emergency and Trauma Department head Prof Datuk Seri Dr Abu Hassan Asaari Abdullah said the hospital used to receive between 10 and 20 cases daily but this had since risen up to 150 cases a month, mostly involving rape, child abuse, molestation and sodomy.

The data corresponded with the rise of number in women seeking shelter at WAO’s Refuge (crisis shelter), as well as calls seeking assistance via its hotline.


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Stay in school girls!

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Hygiene matters: The US First Lady during her tour of schools in Liberia, also spoke about the importance of cleanliness and especially washing hands. – Reuters

Hygiene matters: The US First Lady during her tour of schools in Liberia, also spoke about the importance of cleanliness and especially washing hands. – Reuters

THE United States’ (US) First Lady Michelle Obama told girls in Liberia on Monday to fight to remain in school and get an education, as she visited the west African country where the vast majority drop out because of financial pressure.

Obama launched her “Let Girls Learn” education initiative last year and has since travelled the globe to call for greater support for the millions of girls kept away from school or forced to abandon their studies.

After being greeted by hundreds of singing children lining the road from Monrovia’s airport, Obama met girls and young women at a project named GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) aimed at boosting active citizenship, run by the US Peace Corps in the town of Kakata.

She was accompanied by her two daughters Malia, 17, and Sasha, 15 and her mother, referring to them as her “special girl power crew”.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf welcomed the American visitors once they had landed.

Speaking about the value of women’s leadership and access to education, the Harvard-trained lawyer said she was “here to shine a big bright light on you.”

“I want you to keep fighting and stay in school. You are going to be leaders tomorrow; you are going to be mothers; you are educating yourselves to achieve that. That is why I am proud of you,” she said to the assembled group.

Her venture has particular poignance in Liberia, where just 37 percent of 15 to 24-year-old girls are literate, according to UN figures, and enrolment at the secondary level hovers close to 40 percent, with real participation much lower.

She later discussed the ongoing challenges faced by the young women in this community at a nearby school in Reunification Town, including paying school fees and dealing with “jealous” young men. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) had recently announced that funding would be made available to support the Let Girls Learn Initiative’s projects.

Sheldon Yett, Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) representative for Liberia, said many parents see school as a luxury they can ill afford.

“Often families see it as a cost, losing labour by sending children to school,” Yett said.


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A pricey priority

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Wary of big, life-changing purchases, the ‘Strawberry Generation’ – those ‘easily bruised’, coddled young people in their 30s – prefers to rent, global reports say. Malaysians, however, are bucking the trend despite steep property prices. Mainly thanks to supportive parents, it seems.

BEST friends Leh Mon Soo, 38, and Brandy Yu, 39, are finally buying their first home.

After months of serious scouting, the two managers found units that matched their budget and needs, coincidentally, in the same condominium in Petaling Jaya. Leh is getting a three-bedroom unit while Yu is happy with a 48sqm studio apartment.

Yu feels that the RM365,000 she’s paying is affordable as she can still save about RM1,700 monthly after paying the loan instalment.

“I’m only paying RM400 more a month than what I’ve been forking out for rent. And unlike the rental, this unit will be mine one day,” she says.

Leh ended up forking out a whopping RM690,000 even though she dreads the long-term commitment. While “not a bargain, and at the upper limit of what I can afford”, she says that it’s still a pretty good price, as other, smaller, units were going for higher prices.

“I was only willing to pay RM500,000 initially. Then I saw a two-bedroom in the same condominium going for RM680,000. So I bit the bullet and got this. Property prices won’t be dropping any time soon and our ringgit’s shrinking. It’s now or never. I’ll have to cough up even more later if I don’t get a place now,” she says pragmatically.

The soon-to-be neighbours think property is still in demand, even among Gen Y-ers, aka Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s, typically perceived as brought up and very familiar with digital and electronic technology).

But they’re more privileged because their parents have either already invested in property for them or are helping them buy it, Leh offers. Renting is not for the long-term, she says firmly, and even the younger ones know that.

The Malaysian mindset, Yu quips, is that everyone must own at least one property.

Gym owner Chip Ang, 26, agrees. He got the keys to his new 78sqm unit in Shah Alam last week.

Although it was his parents who suggested he get the RM168,000 place under the Selangor Government’s affordable housing scheme, Ang says property ownership is always a hot topic between him and his friends. Young professionals want to own property. The issue is affordability, he thinks.


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