• foto: NSTP/ASWADI ALIAS

LETTERS: Women are just as good as men in politics, economics, science and innovation. This is the narrative we should be normalising to “Break the Bias” against women, which happens to be the theme of International Women’s Day.

It is high time we shattered the belief that women play secondary roles in the development and well-being of our country.

In Malaysia, 47.7 per cent of the 32.5 million population are women. Women play a significant role in the country’s development as well as in the socio-economic welfare of our families.

Malaysia supports the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fourth and fifth SDGs aim to achieve quality education as well as to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.

One of the greatest changes in Malaysia in recent years has been the increase of women in the labour market.

In 2007, the female labor force participation rate was 46.4 per cent. In 2021, it was 55.4 per cent.

Last year, 20.6 per cent or more than 180,000 small- and medium-scale enterprises were owned by women.

They contributed almost RM70 billion to the gross domestic product, offering nearly 800,000 jobs with employment worth more than RM11.1 billion.

Also, many women academicians have succeeded.

They consist of professors, associate professors and senior lecturers.

They represent fields including clinical and health sciences, pure and applied science, information and communication technology, social science as well as arts and applied arts.

Women academicians have also demonstrated their capabilities in university administrative positions.

For instance, the largest university in Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, is spearheaded by Vice-Chancellor Professor Ts. Dr Roziah Mohd Janor.

She is supported by two women deputy vice-chancellors: Professor Datin Dr Suzana Sulaiman (deputy vice-chancellor of academic and international) and Professor Dr Norazah Abd Rahman (deputy vice-chancellor for research and innovation).

Malaysia’s public universities have 11 female deputy vice-chancellors.

Two are from UiTM, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris respectively, and one each from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and Universiti Malaysia Kelantan.

The women in higher education institutions (HEIs) have played an active role in advocating Malaysia as an international higher education hub.

In 2021, there were more women staff (17,961; 56.8 per cent) than men (13,646; 43.2 per cent) in public HEIs.

Public HEIs also host more women students (359,973; 61 per cent) compared with men (230,525; 39 per cent).

In addition, almost 60 per cent of the more than 15,000 staff at the Higher Education Ministry consist of women.

Based on these figures, I predict that we will witness greater achievement among Malaysian women in the near future.

Research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that increasing female education contributed to higher economic growth by about 50 per cent in OECD countries over the past 50 years.

Understanding this, the Malaysian government has dedicated the third initiative under the 2022 Budget to women empowerment initiatives.

Among the initiatives highlighted is the inclusion of women in boards, where at least one female director must be appointed for public-listed companies.

Additionally, RM30 million has been allocated for nurseries in government buildings, especially in public hospitals and universities.

In terms of women’s health, the government will provide subsidies for mammogram and cervical cancer screening tests totalling RM11.5 million.

These initiatives are in line with the idea that when women are given the chance to reach their highest potential, the nation stands a higher chance of prospering as a whole.

For this year’s International Women’s Day, it is my wish for us to call out gender bias and inequality not only today but every day.

Together, let’s “Break the Bias” on International Women’s Day and beyond.

Happy International Women’s Day 2022!

#BreakTheBias

DATUK SERI DR NORAINI AHMAD

Higher education minister

By Mohd Nazirul Afiq Ismail

Unit Media, Bahagian Komunikasi Korporat, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris. Pengarang e-Pena, mantan wartawan berita & rencana Mega Sains Utusan Melayu Malaysia Berhad, wartawan majalah Mastika, URTV, Infiniti. Ghost writer, suka travel dan suka taugeh. Jom menulis untuk e-Pena emelkan ke nazirul.ismail@upsi.edu.my

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