Datin Shairin Sharif (centre in white) with some of the finalists for the inaugural Women of Excellence Awards 2014.
The Women of Excellence Awards hopes its mentoring programme will serve as a new platform for successful, experienced women to inspire young women and girls.
Successful women the likes of Star Radio Group CEO Kudsia Kahar, AirAsia CEO Aireen Omar, Telekom Malaysia CEO Datuk Rozalila Abdul Rahman, Rumah Karya Citra owner Erma Fatimah, Fashion Valet MD Vivy Yusof, and Madam Kwan’s restaurant founder Kwan Swee Lian have been nominated for the inaugural Women of Excellence Awards 2014 (WOEA).
But the WOEA isn’t just a recognition of women’s achievements in different fields of expertise nationwide. It hopes to pool these resources into a mentoring programme to build a community of world-class women.
“When we talk about female role models, we always have a foreign figure in mind. Very often it’s Oprah Winfrey or maybe an actress or somebody famous. We rarely look local, and that’s a pity because we have a lot of women in our country who can be great inspiration to the nation’s youth,” says Datin Shairin Sharif, founder of Women of Excellence Malaysia and CEO of Event Port, which works toward building a community of women who can make and have made a difference in society.
“I have met many great women who have expressed an interest in giving back to society. There is a desire for the sharing of expertise, but most don’t know where to start. This is where the WOEA steps in. It’s a platform to unite the women of the country under one roof – inspiring women whom the younger generation can look up to and perhaps base their career paths on,” Shairin adds.
The mentoring programme is based on the NADI (Networking, Self-advocacy, Design, Integration) concept, which paves the way for the creation of dialogues among women, and promotes self-awareness in terms of attaining a better understanding of women's rights and responsibilities. But instead of simply following in the footsteps of their mentors, women in the programme are encouraged to find their own solutions through the integration of different input from various influential women in the community.
Since it was announced in September last year, the WOEA has received over 2,000 submissions for consideration. It is still accepting nominations from the public. The non-profit event hopes to celebrate the Top 100 most successful Malaysian women during its gala night later this year. The first list of finalists includes Universiti Malaya professor and histopathologist consultant Dr Looi Lai Meng, RTM’s DG of broadcast Datuk Norhyati Ismail, and ophthalmologist consultant Professor Datuk Dr Veera Ramani.
Norhyati, 59, is looking forward to sharing her knowledge with those who want a career in broadcast. “I will be retiring by the end of this year," says Norhyati, the first female DG at RTM. "It may be considered the end of my profession as a government servant but it’s certainly not the end of my career. I would love to help the creative industry in whatever way that I can – providing consultation where needed and simply being there to open up the perspectives of today’s youth.”
Looi, 63 and President of the World Association of Societies of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, believes that mentoring is crucial in better equipping the younger generation. “Through my experience with mentorship programmes, I find that women often question how they should deal with the circle of people they work with, especially those who have a tendency to push women aside. Younger women also struggle to be heard compared to their older counterparts. I think mentorship programmes are important to give women confidence,” Looi says.
Judges for the awards include National Council of Women’s Organisations Malaysia president Tan Sri Datuk Professor Dr Sharifah Hapsah; David Health Solutions and Eximius Medical Administration Systems chairman Major General Datuk Pahlawan Dr R Mohanadas; KPJ Healthcare Berhad director Datin Paduka Siti Sa’diah Sheikh Bakir; SMRT Holdings Berhad chairman Datuk Dr R Palan; Event Port chairman Datuk Idrus Mohd Satha, and council member representing Malaysia in the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, David Lim Hun Soon.
> Visit woeawards.com or the Women of Excellence Awards 2014 page on Facebook for more details.