AFTER the posturing that women witness like clockwork on March 8 every year (International Women’s Day), some of us are left outraged at the lack of women representation in our government, boardrooms and committees.
To quote Karen Lai, programme director at the Women’s Centre for Change Penang: “Elected officials make particularly important decisions about our lives. So, it is critical to have equal representation. The 30% representation in legislation is a ‘critical mass’ that needs to be the floor, not the ceiling, for women.”
Dr Hazel Easthope, lead author of the study “The Role and Effectiveness of Strata Management in Higher Density Residential Developments”, described strata committees as virtually a fourth tier of government because they set laws and impose fees and fines on residents.
As the first, second and third tiers of government have been unable to successfully implement quotas for women, one can argue that the change should be made from the bottom up. A quota for women in strata management committees might mean change in other tiers of government as well.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that strata managers are generally women. While reliable, their views are largely drowned out due to predominantly male management committees.
An article in the “Harvard Business Review, 91(6)” written by Groysberg and Bell (2013) relates the story of a woman in a boardroom dominated by men who stated that her questions were greeted not with respectful collegiality but as intrusions into the “real” conversation among the male board members.
She said the CEO and other male directors had taken her aside many times and asked her to be “less vocal” and “stop arguing her point” during meetings. The authors state that the most common complaint females on boards have is that their male colleagues fail to listen to them.
As a businesswoman, resident and former member of a strata committee who has been often told to know my place as a woman in a male-dominated public sphere, the stories in Groysberg and Bell’s review are relatable.
Research shows that women place greater importance on operation, whereas men place greater importance on “roles”. Strata management, in my opinion, is all about operation and execution.
In the “Statistics on Women Empowerment in Selected Domains, Malaysia 2020” report, the Statistics Department noted that gender equality level dropped to 70.9%, with political empowerment recording the lowest score. Having a quota for women in strata management committees might help mitigate that problem.
Perhaps laws to mandate this quota would encourage women to be active participants in their communities and further spur them to take on powerful public roles.
Gender differences in social preferences and equity concerns documented through evidence from a field study shows that matrilineal societies provide more public goods than patriarchal ones (“Female political representation and substantive effects on policies: A literature review”, by Hessami and da Fonseca, 2020). Could this mean that more women in strata management committees could translate to more charitable and self-sustainable communities?
Throughout the world, women have been known to spearhead and champion recycling programmes, gardening activities and affordable childcare facilities.
I see a future where strata communities are run by women. I imagine a community which is run by action-oriented women. Till my vision is realised, I shall continue to be an agent of change in my community.
In the meantime, encourage the women you know to start participating in their communities.
SARAH ANNE DEJONG , Melaka