PETALING JAYA: While it is widely accepted that women have valuable skills to contribute at the workplace, it is a fact that many working women see their role in the home as equally important. Most working women have always been, by necessity, very good at juggling a career with the demands of their homes.
But too many find the burden too heavy to bear and subsequently decide to leave the workplace, taking their valuable talent with them. Many of the women who quit work are thought to be the victims of male-domination at the office and unequal benefits like the remuneration scheme.
A recent survey by The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)-Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp) also found that gender and inclusion programmes are currently not in wide practice among Malaysian employees which affects the retention rate of women talent.
And based on the findings from the survey responses and the insight from 50 corporate leaders, it is safe to conclude that gender diversity and inclusion initiatives will be key strategies for companies that intend to hone their competitive edge and achieve long-term sustainability in an internecine environment.
So, how and what must be done or rather what recommendations must be in place for retaining women in the workplace.
“Corporate Malaysia needs to do more to retain women in the workforce. Not for welfare reasons but because it is good for business and it is the right thing to do,” said TalentCorp CEO Johan Mahmood Merican.
He said harnessing female talent in large numbers could conceivably unfetter Malaysia’s economic potential and facilitate its journey to high-developed status.
TalentCorp, an agency dedicated to championing Malaysian talent through collaborations with corporate Malaysia and other stakeholders is strongly advocating a flexible work culture to lure women back into the workforce.
He said, recognising the power of womenomics, the Malaysian government is aggressively taking steps to leverage on women.
Johan added that the 10th Malaysia Plan aims to increase woman’s labour force participation to 55% in 2015, within the broader framework of labour market reform.
“Women are similarly integrated into the Economic Transformation Programme as part of the Strategic Reform Initiative on Human Capital Development, a roadmap for leveraging on woman’s talent trageted at all stages of their career,” added Johan.
The survey found that the top three reasons “why women leave the workforce” is because they want to raise a family, lack of work-life balance and to care for a family member.
While many women on hiatus want to return to work, they face many barriers to reentry such as career obsolescence and employer bias, the survey noted among some of the key reasons.
However, their hiatus may transit into unintentional permanent unemployment if they fail to secure reemployment before their skills become rusty.
Recommendations spelled out for women talent retention also included flexible work arrangements which are the key to attracting and keeping women at work.
Companies are urged to be more attuned to the needs of new parents by increasing maternity leave from 60 days to 90 days, which could in turn improve retention rates.
According to Telekom Malaysia Bhd chief human capital officer Mohd Khalis Abdul Rahim, organisations need to embrace a paradigm shift in mindsets to attract and retain valuable women staff.
“By creating a supportive work environment, women will be able to balance work and family commitments prudently. This will allow working mothers to manage their family needs without compromising their performance at the workplace,” said Mohd Khalis.
In order to stem exodus, it is necessary to understand exactly why women leave, whether on a permanent basis or to take a career break.
According to Nicole Choe, See Hoy Chan Group assistant VP of Human Resources, most women would be the ones to give up their careers to take care of their children and if the country is to increase its women’s workforce, it can be done if employers provide childcare centres for its women employees.
And again most women, about 93%, who have left the workforce and are currently unemployed are keen to come back to work.
So, there are so many women’s talents waiting to tapped and some of the recommendations put forward to lure them back include: implementing flexible work arrangements, career flexibility, becoming family-friendly, maternity benefits, high quality affordable childcare, prevention of sexual harassment and security, escalating women up the economic value chain, leveraging on technology, demolishing the “glass ceiling”, freedom from stereotyping and capitalising on diversity.