Based on the population in 2017, Malaysia’s Gender Gap Index improved from 0.692 to 0.697. A score of 1.0 would indicate no gender gap. Thus, highlighting an existing gender equality gap of 0.303. The index takes into account the average scores for four sub-indices (economic opportunity and participation, academic achievement, health and life, and political domination). While in terms of education the scores stands at 1.040, indicating that women achievement has surpassed men, female participation in politics still lacks, with a score of 0.061).
When compared with other countries in East Asian and Pacific region, Malaysia is ranked eighth, compared to ninth in 2016, ahead of Indonesia, China and Brunei. Malaysia’s ranking also improved globally as it stood at 70 out of the 144 countries, but there still remains a lot of scope for improvement in areas like economic participation & opportunity (0.726) and Political Empowerment (0.061).
The unending saga of workplace gender inequality
Although the latest index shows some improvement in the area of women empowerment, gender inequality in the Malaysian labor market still remains a reality. Empowering women and strengthening gender diversity has a major impact on both business and nation’s economy. As per a recent State of the Household study released by Khazanah Research Institute (KRI), if 30 percent more women entered the Malaysian labor market, the country’s GDP would increase by up to 12 percent. However, still, with lower participation in the workforce combined with, lower pay and fewer senior positions held by women, the labor market still remains heavily male-dominated. In 2017, 58 percent i.e. 2.8 million women opted out of the labor market in favor of housework. At the same time, only 3.2 percent i.e. 69,800 men remained out of the workforce in order to fulfill household chores.
To walk towards the path of achieving gender equality former Prime Minister Najib Razak had declared 2018 as the Women Empowerment Year. In March, this year, he proposed measures like 90 days’ maternity leave for women in the private sector, childcare benefits, and funding for women entrepreneurs. He also asked public and government-linked private bodies to a 30 percent quota for female representation in decision-making positions by the end of this year. While Malaysia has taken several steps to curb this challenge, there are still many obstacles to be crossed before it arrives at the ultimate destination and brings gender inequality to zero.
Besides the measures imposed by the government, even companies and business leaders should take the initiative to promote workplace practices that strengthen gender equality. Only when this becomes a key agenda for each small and large organization and each and every business leader, will the country be able to solve the challenge. From recruitment to succession planning, enhancing women participation should be the high priority for businesses.