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Malaysia – Importance of retaining women employees

16 August 2013

According to a recent survey, Malaysian companies are not embracing programmes to include more women at work, and that this is one reason the retention rate for women is low in the country. The survey, conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd (TalentCorp), found that the top three reasons women quit their jobs are because they want to raise a family, lack of work life balance and to take care of a sick family member.

The survey found that women want flexible work arrangements that can accommodate their family commitments, support for mothers at work, as well as equal opportunities with men.Having these in place, employers will be more likely to attract and retain women talent, according to the survey Retaining Women in the Workplace.

Johan Mahmood Merican, CEO of Talent Corp, commented: “Corporate Malaysia needs to do more to retain women in the workforce, not for welfare reasons but because it is good for business and it is the right thing to do.”

According to Mr Merican, 93% of female respondents on a career break considered re-entering the workforce with 63% finding it difficult to return to the workforce and many of them housewives because only 7% of employers have childcare support facility policy and only 30% of employers have flexible work arrangements policy.

More than half of female respondents, who are not in employment, think that it would be difficult to re-enter the workforce out of fear that their skills and knowledge are out-of-date, putting them at a disadvantage in a highly competitive employment market. However, those who took a career break and returned promptly to employment found it relatively easy to re-join the workforce.

Mr Merican added that flexible work arrangements are the key to attracting and keeping women at work if companies are more attuned to the needs of new parents by increasing maternity leave from 60 days to 90 days, this would in turn improve retention rates.

In Malaysian, many employers observed that women are most prolific in the workforce in their twenties. Their ranks then begin to thin out once they start families and as a result, women in senior management and the C-suite are outnumbered by their male peers, and the environment becomes male dominated.

The low labour participation rate of women can be considered a form of brain drain and it is also worrying that the Malaysian workforce seem to be losing these women as they get to middle management, with only 11% remaining in the workforce.

This is in contrast to Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong which are able to retain 20% of women, similarly to Scandinavian countries like Norway.

Mr Merican said both ACCA and TalentCorp believe that the findings of the “Retaining women in the Workforce” report will be invaluable in refining and innovating gender diversity and inclusion initiatives going forward. In particular, it is hoped that employers will find these recommendations useful in making their workplaces supportive of women and family friendly,” he said.

Looking at the scenario, tapping into female productivity will be critical if companies want to enlarge and enrich their talent pool in an era of scarce resources. This will assist Corporate Malaysia in achieving its vision of becoming a high-income economy by 2020.

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