Progress on women representation in Malaysia tech workforce

Malaysia has seen an increase in the percentage of in its , especially in the field of technology over the recent years, as noted by recent data. In 2019, the Department of Statistics Malaysia reported that the total woman in Malaysia has reached 55.1% or 6.21mn people, as of December 2019.

In the technology field itself, which has been a key driver of the increase, the percentage of represented has now reached 35%, Surina Shukri, MDEC's Chief Executive Officer, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), has noted in a press release this week.

She added: “I am confident that through the various initiatives by the government and agencies like MDEC, this figure will soar and women are expected to continue to make a significant contribution to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is projected to reach 22.6% by 2025.

“This bodes well for our digital economy and investments and is in line with our efforts towards making Malaysia the Heart of Digital ASEAN.”

According to MDEC's Surina, initiatives such as the Perkhidmatan eDagang Setempat (PeDAS), which assists rural entrepreneurs to market their products on ecommerce platforms with facilities made available at 32 Rural Internet Centres nationwide, has been dominated by women with 79% participation or a total of 3,201 people.

At the same time, the eUsahawan Muda programme has attracted 25,713 women, or 63% of the total number of participants. Meanwhile, the eUsahawan Micro programme saw women make up 61% or 16,718 women participating; and the Global Online Workforce (GLOW PENJANA) programme, which empowers Malaysians to earn income online, has seen a 5% involvement by women.

All three programmes have trained a total of 220,445 women, which make up 54% of the total participants.

Sharing her excitement, Surina expressed that women in the country “have what it takes for greater achievements, especially in leadership positions in the corporate sector and in the field of technology.”

However, she added, “continuous efforts must be made to remove existing barriers, including gender bias issues and to encourage more women to be given the opportunity to fill these positions in the corporate sector.”

“The Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, (MyDIGITAL) launched recently by the government, will benefit women greatly especially in the field of digital competencies. The initiatives implemented are important steps to empower women in the country in our efforts to continue to lead the digital economy forward, centered on ensuring a shared prosperity for the all and towards realising Malaysia 5.0.”

Additionally, Dr Sumitra Nair, Vice President of MDEC's Digital Skills and Jobs Division shared that various initiatives are carried out to empower Malaysian women in the face of challenges in the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0).

She added that “women in the country are very creative, capable of communicating effectively and possess admirable problem-solving skills.”

“When we look at the World Economic Forum Report 2020 and on the future of jobs, the three elements mentioned above are very critical for the digital economy sector and I am confident that Malaysian women are ready to play a more active role.”

One other programme driving the progress is MDEC's #Mydigitalmaker programme, which has benefited some 2.19mn school students nationwide up until December 2020.

“Women have extraordinary spirit to excel in the digital field. Data from the #Mydigitalmaker movement shows that 50 percent of the participants are women,” added Dr Sumitra.

Meanwhile, MDEC's Chief Digital Business Officer, Aiza Azreen Ahmad who celebrated her first International Women's Day at MDEC was also excited to share her journey in helping to empower women in the country. Aiza, who joined MDEC earlier this month, said the decision to return to serve her beloved country after a long stint in Australia was one of the most memorable moments in her career.

“When I came back, I learned new job skills. Over the years I have been trained by both male and female leaders to be inquisitive and to take new challenges as ways to enhance my knowledge and skillset. The combination of both attributes are the strengths of which I am building every day.

“Women (and men) are susceptible to comfort. It is a natural order. Perhaps we can start getting comfortable with discomfort to motivate ourselves to chart our path in frontier economies such as digital and technology.”

She also highlighted one key topic – that of women taking sabbaticals to attend to family matters. On this, she stressed the need to help these women understand the changes that have taken place during their leave of absence, and if the skillsets they had before are still relevant or if there is a need to acquire new skills.

“To help women succeed is to first manage the limitations and expectations of their current capability vis a vis what the economy needs at present. The second step is to retrain their skills to suit current business needs. The third would be building platforms of shared vision/mission and to provide them with training and mentoring programs to ensure that they enjoy and remain on the path towards professional and personal growth through these reskilling methods,” she concluded.

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