Women at work

More working mothers are in leadership roles at the office, says a survey by LinkedIn. However, 32% of women still feel that their gender is a barrier in getting ahead in their career.

THE hand that rocks the cradle also rocks at the workplace.

More working mothers are in leadership roles at their companies, according to a recent survey by professional networking platform LinkedIn.

“A higher proportion of full-time working mothers are in middle management roles – higher than all females and all males, ” says LinkedIn talent and learning solutions vice-president (Asia Pacific) Feon Ang in an interview.

About 46% of working mothers were found to be in such positions, compared to all women workers (35%) and all men (42%) in the study.

This indicates that gender is not a major barrier for these posts – a piece of good news for International Women’s Day, celebrated today.

As middle managers, they play an important role in managing day-to-day routines, monitoring performance and leading others to comply with the company’s needs.

These working mothers are mostly employed in industries like consumer goods, corporate services, manufacturing and construction.

Such findings on women at the workplace were made available to Sunday Star from the LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2020, which engaged over 30,000 respondents worldwide, including 1,050 from Malaysia.

With most Malaysian working mothers being employed full-time, they are keen on jobs that offer good work-life balance and job stability.

“Working mothers are most concerned about the rising cost of living, safety and security, environmental issues and the cost of raising a family.

“This shows that career and life goals are a priority for them today and the future, ” Ang explains.

Working mothers consider working hard, knowing the right people or having the right connections and being ambitious about one’s career as the most important aspects to get ahead in life.

As it turns out, most working mothers are better educated, with 77% of them in the survey having at least undergraduate qualifications.

This percentage is even higher than women in general (72%) and men (67%) in the survey who have the same qualifications.

However, the research found that the main barrier or “opportunity gap” for Malaysian working mothers is their current financial status.

“Many feel overwhelmed by too many personal or family financial commitments.

“Insufficient funds and savings, and paying off current loans or debts make it difficult to secure their finances for the future, ” Ang says.

Working mothers are also hindered by a difficult job market, with over 50% agreeing that finding a job is challenging in today’s economy.

“Many are seeking out freelance opportunities, implying that a full-time or part-time gig helps them balance their career and family life, ” she adds.

However, while women have made leaps and bounds at work, there are still some who feel that there are challenges being

a woman at work.

About 32% of the women surveyed felt that their gender was a factor in getting ahead in life, or that it was an obstacle to achieving career and life opportunities.

“In fact, 60% of those who did feel that their gender was a barrier found it difficult to overcome, implying that bias continues to exist at work – whether it’s about looking for a job or in a work


“This unconscious bias may prevent women from getting the same opportunities as their male colleagues.

“To overcome this, we encourage organisations to take steps to ensure that both men and women are aware of unconscious bias, whether it’s hiring or developing talent, ” Ang says.

In November last year, Sunday Star reported that male employees generally make more money than female employees.

Last year, the average Malaysian male employee had a median

salary of RM2,342 a month while women made RM2,227, according to data from the Statistics Department (DOSM).

However, the gender wage gap is not due to a lack of ability on the part of women.

It was reported that many women are often wrongfully penalised at work due to reasons including discrimination and incorrect perceptions about a woman’s ability to contribute.

However, Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan says there should not be any gender barriers for women these days at work.

“Gender bias claims should be a thing of the past.

“More women are in leadership and decision-making posts now, ” he says.

Shamsuddin adds that employers should only evaluate a worker based on their abilities and not their gender.

Based on statistics from the DOSM, there was an increase in the number of women in the labour force – from 6.15 million in the third quarter of last year to 6.18 million in the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, the labour force comprised 60.8% men (9.59 million) and 39.2% women (6.18 million), according to the Principal Statistics of Labour Force, Malaysia, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2019.

The number of labour force for both male and female increased by 60,073 persons and 32,369 persons respectively compared to the third quarter of 2019.

The female labour force participation rate (LFPR), or the percentage of women who are economically active out of the total population of women, had risen by 0.1% to 56.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Among the women, the age group with the highest LFPR

were those aged between 25 and 34 (75.6%), followed by women aged 35 to 44 (67.1%) and those aged 45 to 54 (58.7%).

Some have argued that having more childcare centres at the workplace would encourage more women to be part of the workforce again.

On whether more childcare centres should be set up, Shamsuddin says such an option isn’t viable for the private sector as it is costly and may be a distraction at work.

“At present, there are less than 25 childcare centres at private companies and these are mostly government-linked companies.

“Instead of having the centre at work, we propose that every housing area should have a childcare centre. The fees should be affordable and standardised to ease the burden of working mothers, ” he says.

There are also some who have to care for elderly parents or relatives.

As such, Shamsuddin suggests that such centres be integrated to care for both senior citizens and young children.

“I believe this will enable more women, especially mothers to return to the workforce, ” he says, estimating that an additional one million women would go back to work if such facilities were available.

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