Diversity, Equality and Inclusivity (DEI): Initiatives and Opportunities That Empower Women in Greater Kuala Lumpur




 
In Greater Kuala Lumpur (GKL), diversity, equality, and inclusivity aren’t just catchphrases du jour but systemic business principles to uphold across a dynamic socio-economic landscape. These principles overlap in a critical area: the rise of female leaders in the Malaysian workforce. This organic phenomenon underscores the importance of equal economic participation across genders for economic growth.

What factors drive female leaders’ increasing economic participation nationwide in Malaysia, including Greater Kuala Lumpur? 

Female Leaders On The Rise

By 2023, over 30% of leadership roles within Malaysia’s top 100 public-listed companies were occupied by women, with many headquartered in GKL. Of this, an impressive 38.2% of key decision-making roles are held by women in JUSA, the highest category of Malaysia’s public bureaucracy. This accomplishment reflects the impact of Datuk Dr Hafsah Hashim, Chairwoman of the Women Leadership Foundation (WLF), who once publicly campaigned for legislative mandates to foster more excellent female representation in decision-making positions.

Of course, these achievements could not have been possible without the existing systemic support of working mothers in Malaysia. The long-established Malaysian Employment Act entitles working mothers to at least 60 consecutive days of paid maternity leave, which some companies have extended to 90 days.

It also helps that the Malaysian government prioritises the well-being of single mothers. In the 2023 Budget, finance minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz announced that a further RM500 was added to the aid for single parents available through the Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia (BKM). The increased amount sums the total support to RM3,000, a marked increase from the previous RM2,500. This policy recognises the economic burdens often shouldered by single mothers and exemplifies the government's commitment to ensuring their active participation in the workforce.

Dynamic corporate programs

Many female leaders in Malaysia, including in GKL, are entrepreneurs, and the Malaysian government supports this category of economic participants well.

According to the United Nations Development Programme in 2014, the government has been an active global participant in shaping an inclusive business environment. Various public agencies under the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry (MEDAC) have also established initiatives to bolster female entrepreneurship across GKL.

In 2022 alone, the National Entrepreneurial Group Economic Fund (TEKUN) allocated RM1.1 billion to its programme, benefitting 73,073 entrepreneurs, including women. TEKUN also launched a collateral-free financing program for online entrepreneurs, aiding 118 women entrepreneurs as of February.

Meanwhile, organisations such as the Women’s Institute of Management (WIM), Women Entrepreneur Network Association (WENA) and Lean In Malaysia support female entrepreneurship ecosystems in GKL and beyond. These organisations often offer skill development programs, mentoring, and networking events to help women leaders scale their businesses and level the playing field for others like them.


Inspirational Malaysian Female Leaders in Greater Kuala Lumpur 

Among the growing legion of female leaders in this region, five trailblazers stand out the most with their unique pursuits that contribute to the ecosystem of female leaders. 

Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz

Tan Sri Zeti, an acclaimed economist and central banker, has played an instrumental role in Malaysia's financial landscape. As the first female governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, she held the reins for 16 years, from 2000 to 2016, overseeing robust financial reforms during challenging economic periods. Known for her innovative strategies, Tan Sri Zeti emphasised sound policies, regulatory standards, and corporate governance, ensuring Malaysia's banking system's resilience. Her influence extends globally, as she served as the Chairperson of the Asian Institute of Finance and the Co-chair of the High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability of the United Nations. Today, she continues to empower women in leadership, proving they can break the glass ceiling with expertise and tenacity.


Tun Fatimah Hashim

Tun Fatimah is known as the country's pioneering female Federal Court judge. Breaking through gendered norms, she solidified her legacy as an emblem of judicial integrity and gender equality. Notably, Tun Fatimah broke history by becoming the inaugural female Syarie High Court judge, contributing profoundly to the evolution of Islamic jurisprudence. Her unwavering dedication to justice has left an indelible mark on Malaysia's legal landscape, inspiring generations of women to defy negative societal expectations and excel in their chosen fields. Her remarkable journey underscores the importance of courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment to breaking barriers.

Captain Patricia Yap Syau Yin

Captain Patricia has etched her name as a pioneering figure in Malaysia's aviation history. As the nation's first female captain at Malaysia Airlines, she soared above gendered confines to redefine possibilities in the cockpit. Her remarkable journey from flight cadet to captain exemplifies dedication, perseverance, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Her achievement inspires aspiring female pilots that the sky is the limit for them. Through her groundbreaking accomplishment, Captain Patricia has paved the way for future generations of women to ascend to the highest echelons of the aviation industry.

Datuk Mazlan Othman

A luminary in astrophysics, Datuk Mazlan Othman is the nation's first woman to hold a PhD in this domain – a testament to her unwavering commitment to scientific exploration. Her impact transcends borders; she extended her expertise to the international arena, playing pivotal roles at the United Nations over the members, including the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and an overseeing member of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). As an advocate for peaceful and collaborative space exploration, she embodies the limitless potential of women in spearheading groundbreaking discoveries. Datuk Mazlan's journey underscores the importance of breaking barriers, inspiring young women to venture into uncharted territories and contributing to humanity's collective quest for knowledge beyond the stars.

The Future is Female

Greater Kuala Lumpur is witnessing an incredible surge in female leaders, illustrating its dedication to women's empowerment. Future-focused initiatives, many steered by women, are attracting equality-driven global investors and workers to participate in GKL’s economic landscape. These endeavours align with the region’s aim to normalise women's economic empowerment and stratify a level playing field between male and female earners.

In short, diversity, equality, and inclusivity are norms in GKL. Pride in the progress made thus far, and optimism about the future, propels the drive to enhance female leadership. Undoubtedly, the region’s entrepreneurial future is increasingly female-led.

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