Where are the women?

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 23 Jul 2017

Feon Ang, VP Talent and Learning Solutions Business in Asia Pacific and Japan

More jobs are being replaced by technological advancements, yet half of the country’s population are turning their backs on STEM. 

WOMEN are turning away from the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industry, according to LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network with over three million members in Malaysia.

The lack of women in STEM is a global problem, says Feon Ang, LinkedIn’s vice-president of talent and learning solutions business in Asia Pacific and Japan.

Sharing its latest data, she says there’s gender inequality in STEM.

“It’s important to change the nation’s mindset and encourage women to take up STEM-related careers to contribute to the nation’s progress and close the gender inequality gap.”

Putting things into perspective, she says in the Asia-Pacific, STEM fields are dominated by men. Only 25% are women. The gap, she adds, widens at senior levels with 84% males compared to 16% females.

The situation, she says, is similar in Malaysia.

While it’s also male-focused, the country fares a little better – with women at 29%. At senior levels, the gender gap is also slightly smaller, compared to Asia Pacific, with 21% females.


“STEM professionals are majority male, and the imbalance worsens at the senior levels. Globally, women form half the workforce, obtain more degrees as compared to men, and represent the largest single economic force in the world.

“But the more global or the more senior the role, the less likely you’ll find women in these jobs. Take women in STEM, for instance. Despite a high demand for talent, there’s a widening gap within the tech industry in the number of STEM roles held by women,” she says.

But there’s some good news.

Four in five STEM female graduates in the Asia-Pacific region take less than six months to land their first job.

The Mastercard Girls in Tech study found 84% of first time jobseekers with STEM degrees took less than six months to get a job, with 60% of them stating they were “very satisfied” with their chosen jobs.

The survey was based on interviews with 2,270 girls aged between 12 and 25 across six Asia-Pacific markets last December.

To narrow the gap, Ang calls on organisations to develop a professional brand. This she feels, is a crucial first step. The brand, she says, must have the right influence. Find successful mentors who can be part of your board of directors, including someone who’s equipped with the skills you want your employees to develop, someone who’s made it to the top, or someone whom you want your employees to be like at work, she suggests.

To attract and retain women talent, and help close the gender gap, LinkedIn recommends that bosses:

> Build the business case, and train the recruiting team on recruiting STEM women.

Diversify recruiting training, employer branding that focuses on women, an internal community of women in STEM focused on career development and recruiting, strategic partners outside of recruiting that can help you sell and close candidates, and an interview process that feels inclusive and diverse.

> Highlight the company’s human side in all branding and job descriptions.

Women in STEM are believed to care more about the human side of a company than their male counterparts. More women want to know about the culture and values, and understand employee perspectives.

> Look to employees.

Use employee referrals through fellow female employees in STEM. They are your biggest champions to bridge the gap for candidates who are unsure about the company.

> Show women how their work fits into a greater purpose.

Women in STEM are more motivated by purpose. Compared to men, they’re less motivated by money or status. Women in STEM tend to gravitate towards technical projects that directly impact people in a good way.

Ang says that the world is at the cusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

“The 4th Industrial Revolution is disrupting every industry in every country, transforming the way we live, work and connect, with each other. It’s important to have the right supply of STEM talents in the pipeline to ride this wave.

“Women can contribute by offering different views and capabilities, which can enhance the insight and inventiveness of products and solutions.”

STEM talents are valuable assets to spearhead the digital economy. Sadly, the total number of students taking science and technology programmes at institutions of higher learning in the country is dropping drastically, according to the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

When congratulating PhD student Nur Adlyka Ainul Annuar for discovering evidence of a supermassive black hole in a galaxy recently, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak expressed hope that the 27-year-old’s accomplishment would encourage girls to pursue the fields of STEM.

Aware of the challenges ahead, the Government has stepped up efforts to promote STEM.

In May, the Education Ministry pledged to continue developing STEM human capital and enhancing teachers’ skills and abilities, while the Human Resources Develop­ment Fund has allocated RM15mil to empower women leadership in data science and ICT.

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Career , women , STEM , science , mathematics


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