Malaysian women feel they have to choose between having a career or a family

PETALING JAYA: A new study by recruitment giant Monster.com found one-third of Malaysian women saying that they "agree" or "somewhat agree" that having children affected their career goals and opportunities.

It said while 30% of women with children believe they had been held back because of their decision to have kids, a further 28% said they were "not sure" if they felt held back.

The study, which aimed to shed light on the challenges women face in the workplace, surveyed over 700 respondents across the country.

The survey also questioned women on their challenges at work.

Monster.com said the results revealed that the biggest hurdle was "how they are perceived" by colleagues and clients (41%), followed by a lack of opportunity to advance or gain promotion (40%) and balancing the demands of work and family (37%).

"Close to 70% of women also face some form of workplace discrimination. This includes not being considered for advancement and promotions due to gender (41%), being 'talked down to' by their boss or manager (29%), and being questioned about their desire to start a family during the interview process (25%).

"On top of this, 19% of women said they haven't been given certain responsibilities at work because of their home commitments, while 12% have been called names in the office, such as 'bossy', for being assertive," the survey found.

Monster.com also found that women in Malaysia do seem to have access to some flexibility at work, with more than half (54%) being allowed to utilise flexible working hours.

Monster.com APAC and Middle East managing director Sanjay Modi said mothers returning to the workforce bring new skills and a new perspective to the workplace, yet they are often overlooked.

He said this somewhat undervalued the talent pool who often have extensive prior work experience and require minimal adjustments to return to the workforce full-time.

He added that what they need is support, understanding and clear objectives and goals on their responsibilities and deliverables.

"Supporting female talent is an effort that extends beyond maternity benefits and will allow employers to retain this valuable talent pool.

"Employers must tap into this often inactive group while also considering family-friendly and flexible policies.

"Beyond just focusing more on attracting and recruiting female talent, employers must invest in retaining, mentoring and promoting women already in the pipeline to reach their full potential," Modi said.