Women deserve better

WOMEN are prominently seen in politics and corporate life but are there enough women in the upper echelons?

I guess we are nowhere near true equality and proper representation, particularly because our government wants 30% of corporate boards to be women. Why 30%?

According to a Statistics Department report, women only made up 37% of salary earners in 2016. It points out that in terms of median wages, women get RM1,685 compared to RM1,721 for men.

In comparison to other countries, our women may be closer to equal – but equal is equal, and the fact that there is a small difference when women make up a bit more than a third of the workforce is strange.

Strange because there are more women than men in our institutions of tertiary education. Another report by the department on gender statistics shows that women outnumbered men in university by 133,687 in 2016.

In Malaysia, women in general are highly educated, but not a lot of them end up joining the general workforce. Why?

My hypothesis is that women are running small and microbusinesses out of their homes to have a flexible daily schedule.

Not only are women told to contribute some income by the government, but they are told to stay at home and care for the children, and even care for the house, regardless of whether an additional income would make life more comfortable.

Can you imagine the headache faced by families run by a single mother, those duties are compounded by concerns of how to make a single income sustain in a two-income world.

Once women joined the workforce during World War II, our world changed; those who manipulated the market determined that goods should be priced in a way that a household would only be comfortable with two incomes, putting pressure on middle and lower-class families.

There is a book on this written by senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren.

Thus, more policies need to be put in place to assist women in making a living. More must be done to allay the duties of women, ensure equal pay for equal work, and encourage them to join the general workforce.

To do so, we must first undo this thought that 30% representation of women is enough – women make up 50% of the population, they should have 50% representation. I think giving them a mere 30% is a raw deal.

Second, we must undo this idea that a woman getting pregnant is a liability and that is a reason to cut their salaries or even fire them.

Finally, there is a need for people to understand that housework is work. Stay-at-home mothers ensure that the future generation is nurtured by family.

With the world now speaking of universal basic incomes, can this government consider having a housewife monthly allowance of RM600 for households earning less than RM4,000, on top of the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M)?

Similarly, single working mothers should be getting double the amount of BR1M to make ends meet on top of the housewife allowance.

Women deserve a lot better, and we haven't even begun to look at the issues of harassment and security. This requires a cultural paradigm shift. The equality must come first to empower women to deal with such issues.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com