Need for a women-friendly workplace


  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 20 Dec 2011

I REFER to “Be flexible, bosses told” (The Star, Dec 19) and accept it as something that we need to do for the sake of gender balance in the workplace. Generally our Malaysian employment legislation provides job security whereby women can return to their jobs after their maternity leave.

Some countries are yet to recognise the important role of women, but Malaysian employers, if not far ahead of their counterparts in other countries, are in good state at least. In spite of this, it is clear that female employees need more flexibility in working hours, roles and responsibilities.

We need to acknowledge that women got to have their special place in the organisations. More and more women are becoming highly educated and highly skilled. Our schools, colleges and universities are producing more women than male graduates in most fields.

The positions held by women are changing fast. More and more of them are showing that they are professionally capable. They are climbing up the corporate ladder faster than ever in a globalised world.

As of 2010, twelve CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were women, and more can be expected in the future. One of the top 10 richest personalities in Malaysia is a woman.

I would acknowledge that, with all the demographic and global changes, soon employers would have fewer choices and would have to provide part-time work and flexible hours to women.

Employers cannot afford to lose them and would accommodate their demands. Therefore, employers have to make plans to manage the work-family relationship.

Surveys have shown that work-family conflicts can cause strain and affect productivity. If not handled properly, productive time lost may keep on increasing.

Alternatively, the employers can innovate or duplicate what other “employers of choice” do, for example, establishing child-care facilities provide invaluable help to working mothers.

There are also organisations making available part-time jobs or flexi-working hours. This suits mothers who have small children.

Then there is the new phenomenon of “telecommuting” where women normally work from home.

We can emulate the labour policies of the Scandinavian countries, where laws provide for more generous parental leave and subsidised day care, a safe environment for children to commute from school to home independently, and employers accord female employees special care in the recruitment policy.

We need to ask ourselves whether discrimination and fewer opportunities for women are deeply ingrained in our society as many lobby groups claim, or is it a simple fact of life that men and women are different and have differing priorities in life and work?

Or is the plethora of legislation aimed at helping and promoting women in the workplace actually having the opposite effect?

DR SHANKAR CHELLIAH,

George Town.

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