The above topic was discussed in detail during a panel discussion at the recent GE Women’s Network (GEWN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, moderated by Sugunah Verumandy, Country Human Resource Manager, GE Malaysia & Brunei. Amongst the panellist were Datuk Yvonne Chia, Former CEO, Hong Leong Bank; Janet Yap, Country Managing Director, Accenture Malaysia; and Pun Tian Pouw, Principal, Korn Ferry.
It is indisputable that many factors have shaped the role of women in the business world for the past few decades. However, the economic empowerment of women through personal growth is undeniably an outstanding revolution which surpasses these factors.
Elaborating on this, Pun Tian Pouw, Principal, Korn Ferry shared that “Personal growth be it in one’s personal life or career can be divided into two – structured which is planned and unstructured which unplanned. During this time, for a successful learning experience, it is important to ensure that three things are in order. Firstly, to be aware (understanding what needs to be done and thinking of a way to do it); secondly, to embrace the experience (recognising the success or failure of what you have done); and lastly, to detach (letting go of the experience to ensure you do not let success or failure affect your self-esteem).”
Women Empowerment Challenges The Status Quo
The number one factor that led to this empowerment is education. Education provides personal growth through job training, classroom and virtual learning, knowledge and skill transfer, and most definitely the benefit of first-hand experience. We are seeing in Malaysia and around the world the increasing number of women pursuing tertiary education in universities and colleges compared to men. Though the male and female population ratio is somewhat equal in Malaysia, recent reports revealed a gender imbalance in the pursuant of tertiary education in institutions of higher learning as 60 to 70 per cent of student intakes at universities and colleges comprise female students.
Beyond tertiary education, professional development is also vital as it helps keep an individual’s knowledge and skills relevant and up-to-date, a requirement to be successful in any profession.. The latest ranking of the Fortune 500 companies revealed that 24 of the world’s biggest companies today are led by female CEOs as compared to just one woman in 1998.
It is clear that they will reach parity with men in leadership roles in the near future as their presence in top leadership positions and “share of voice” continue to soar in the days ahead.
“Learning is an important process towards living a sustainable life throughout one’s career and the success attained during this time is more fulfilling to the individual and society,” said Datuk Yvonne Chia, Former CEO, Hong Leong Bank. Considering this, regardless of their background, every woman is capable of doing amazing things in any environment they spend a great deal of their time in, particularly their workplace.
The Working Millennials
Today’s employees largely made up of the millennials, those born between the year 1980 – 1995. These individuals are prepared to take greater risks and are encouraged and rewarded for thinking outside of the box rather than sticking to the traditional ways of doing things. Millennial women in general are known for being highly ambitious, educated, optimistic, dedicated, and are attempting to thrive in a well-rounded lifestyle. With this competitive edge, they are known to be powerful players at their workplace, challenging every employee to continuously broaden their perspectives and learn from others by understanding the importance of different work styles, adapting, and sometimes meeting in the middle.
These Millennial women are well aware that they do not have to be born with specific characteristics or traits of a leader nor wait for a tap on the shoulder. Neither does she have to be at the top of the organisation. Instead, Millennial women understand that leadership skills can be honed while serving others and developing their potential in various areas.
Change is happening and it will continue to occur as the Millennial women experience greater gender equality at work and at home due to the personal expectations they set upon themselves. Adding on to this, Janet Yap, Country Managing Director, Accenture Malaysia pointed out that “Organisations today are made up of a multigenerational group of people hence we need to find ways of how to engage with everyone as each generation has a different expectation.”
Now, it is evident that today’s women are much more open to new challenges. Moving forward, understanding personalities and making adjustments based on emotional intelligence is going to be a big factor in success not only at their workplace but in their personal lives.