In conjunction with International Women's Day 2019's theme of #BalanceForBetter, 10 exemplary bosses hailing from various industries and professions reveal their game plan to promote a gender-balanced culture in the workplace.

1. Celebrate The Economical Impact Of Equality In The Workforce

Sharala Axryd, CEO of The Center of Applied Data Science (CADS)

“Although there are more qualified STEM-based women in this part of the world, it is the men who ends up in the workforce doing the STEM work. Recently, CADS launched DATA FOR HER, a chapter that encourages the participation of women in data science. The programmes engage with females from secondary schools, universities and the workforce to break the glass ceiling through tailor-made initiatives.

On equality of salary, I think it is on-par but getting women into data science is still a struggle I’m actively trying to overcome. See, I preach that women in the workforce raises the GDP, which then increases the standard of living. There’s a whole economic life cycle to that."

2. Challenge Gender Stereotypes With Courage

Chan Yen Sze, Head of Technical Department for 3M Malaysia

“I chose to work at 3M Malaysia because the company places high importance on gender equality. Yet, the role of stereotypes still underlines certain expectations about gender. For example, when I first joined 3M Malaysia, I was assigned to handle the 3M abrasive products range, and customers had doubts if I was capable enough to handle a grinder to demonstrate the cutting power of a 3M abrasive disk!

But we can all be part of the solution. I was part of the founding team for the company's The Women’s Leadership Forum and served as the chairperson for two years. I am proud to say that we have executed some impactful initiatives in the past that benefited women in the company."

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3. Walk The Talk

Datin Sharifah Menyalara Hussein, CEO of M&C Saatchi

“Having hired, mentored and worked alongside many women in our business over the years, I think women in advertising do well, as they are creative, focused, detailed and operationally hands-on.

But companies can’t just talk about inclusion. Lip service serves no purpose. At M&C Saatchi, we don’t leave this to chance. We have a Head of Culture and Inclusion who helps to set goals, create a framework for unconscious bias training and create initiatives that will make us a more diverse company. It keeps us in check."

4. Continuously Address Stigma Attached To Women's Roles In The Organisation

Pauline Ho, Assurance & People Partner of PwC Malaysia

“Women leave the workforce when they feel they’re out of options. At PwC Malaysia, we have the flex+ programmes that give flexibility to our employees so they know they have options if a need arises for them to balance family and work life. We also champion against the stigma of flexibility. Having children and valuing flexibility to care for them is not a crime, and says nothing of a woman’s commitment to her job.

Also, it is important advocate sponsorship for promising talents. For women who have been identified as future leaders, having a top executive (male or female) mentor them will help open doors for them."

I envision a future that it will be so normal for women to hold top posts, that when female business or political leaders are selected for the job, the media will only report on the appointment, without making any reference to her gender!
Pauline Ho

5. Think Merit, Not 'Quota'

Datin Vivy Yusof, Chief Creative Officer of FashionValet

“I get annoyed when talk about gender balance implies there’s a ‘quota’ for women. Ultimately, it boils down to merit and performance. At FashionValet, we have always made it clear to our staff that their backgrounds and genders do not matter.

We recently appointed our first GM in the company, Nadiah Norzuhdy. We chose her because she has proven her capabilities, rising from a junior executive to her current role. Our C-level team members consist of men and women—something we proudly show to all that it’s not about gender, it’s about grouping all of our strengths together as one.

"Similarly, FashionValet's benefits for employees apply to both genders! We have a play room in our office where both daddies and mummies can bring the kids to work and we are lenient if our team members need to take time off because of their family matters.”

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6. Set High Standards In Place

Malek Bekdache, Managing Director of L'Oréal Malaysia & Singapore

“This year, L’Oréal is again one of 230 companies selected for the 2019 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) that distinguishes companies committed to transparency in gender reporting and advancing women’s equality in the workplace.

We have processes in place so all employees meet the same standards as they progress through their careers, which helps ensure they all get the same exposure and opportunities for empowerment. We put a lot of effort into broader adoption of flexible work arrangements and continuous leadership training and mentoring across both genders."

Also read: Meet The 3 Awardees Of The L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science 2018

7. Listen Closely To Your Employees—Their Voices Count

Joanne Kua, CEO of KSK Group

"There are still women in the world who view that their voices are not being heard. Because of that, they miss opportunities or even lose the chance to have a seat at the executive table. I think it’s crucial for all companies to open a platform of discussion where all voices are valued.

At KSK, we are proud to say that we do have several women employed across all levels, from engineers to clerks of work at the construction site of 8 Conlay, our maiden project. A few additional initiatives we have undertaken at KSK include, a strict policy against sexual harassment inclusive of a whistleblowing policy, equal pay and opportunities and application for sabbaticals, which addresses pain-points for women who might need to try to find a balance between family time and work."

8. Have Confidence In Yourself & Set An Example

Dr Helena Lim, Fertility Specialist

“Erratic working hours, a mentally and physically challenging work nature, personal sacrifices at the expense of other things in life such as relationships, pregnancies and family lives—these are great hurdles for women in the obstetrical & gynaecological fraternity.

For me personally, achieving my career goals, becoming a wife and mother of three along the way and pursuing a writing career were choices I made and embraced. I must say that I am proud of what I have achieved today and I hope other women will also pursue their ambitions without fear. Women leaders serve as good role models to help other women build confidence and develop their careers.”

I think women need to be convinced that they can have the best of both worlds.
Dr Helena Lim

9. Look To The Future and Work Towards It

Jane Leong, Strategies & Operations Director of Mah Sing Group

"Property development is traditionally seen as a male dominant industry. I think the property industry would benefit from having women in planning homes and spaces, as they will be able to provide insights into their experiences, wants and needs that reflect 50% of the population. Having, female architects and engineers involved in all stages of property planning give us unique views on how women plan their lives within their home and the usage of space.

Outside of the company, I believe education is key for equal opportunities. In Mah Sing Foundation, we run education programmes at Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) Enggang, Puchong to provide the underprivileged children, girls and boys, who struggle in the class room the additional support in learning to develop basic literacy and mathematical skills."

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10. Finally, Know That Gender Bias Is A Two-Way Street

Meriza Anna Mustapha, Co-Founder of Maideasy

“Let’s switch the dialogue a bit. When my husband Azrul and I started Maideasy, the common belief is that cleaning is a "woman's job". But that’s not true because some of my most responsible cleaners in the team are often male! They came over for training without any expectations about themselves and are very attentive to our training and techniques. Some of them find the job satisfying that they love it so much—and earn the trust of our customers.

At Maideasy, we empathically listen to the issues raised by our employees. For example, of two of our male staff have responsibilities taking care of sick family members. We understand, that apart from their responsibility at the office, male or female, they have commitments to their family. For that, we make concessions with them to balance their responsibilities at work and at home. Ultimately, it's about fairness to all.”

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