Letters - International Women’s Day – where are we today?

THIS year the International Women's Day will be celebrated across the world on March 8 with its theme – Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030. At the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women at United Nations, the issue of women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work will be debated.

Have we achieved the status of 50-50 in the workforce, government and as well as private sector in Malaysia? If not, can we achieve it by 2030? What about discrimination and prejudice against women in the workforce? What about the managerial position for women? These are some pertinent questions regarding the issue of gender equality.

Women are the other half of the human population. Women and men are like two wings of humanity. Inequality would surely hamper the flight of humankind to lofty heights of progress and development.

According to government statistics, we have about 50% of women in the civil service workforce. This means the other half are men. At the managerial position, women take up 35.65% of top level management posts in the government. According to Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, there are 1,419 women at the top level management. This statistics show that the government is serious about gender equality.

Ali said measures would be taken to empower female leadership in the country's development, particularly towards making the 2050 National Transformation a reality. We also appreciate the government's stand in increasing the number of women in the workforce, including managerial positions in the years to come.

The story in the private sector is rather disappointing. Still it is a male-dominated sector. Women have also been severely discriminated in the workforce in the private sector. Despite having the credits and qualifications, women are always sidelined in jobs as more promotional positions are given to the men.

To cite an example, my daughter who works in the private sector has always been prejudiced and sidelined when she attends interviews for promotions, despite having better qualifications. Gender prejudice brings damaging effects not only to women but to society at large. Inequality also retards not only the advancement of women but the progress of civilisation itself.

Some private companies are dominated by men and by a certain ethnic group only. Men and women from other ethnic groups are not accepted in such companies. Even when the promotional post is advertised, it is outright discrimination when it states that only the selected ethnic group can apply for such posts.

We are a nation with many ethnic groups. We are all Malaysians and why should parochial ideas dominate the private sector. Jobs should be given to men or women, according to merit and qualification for the post, not based on gender or ethnicity.

There needs to be a new understanding to reshape our society based on gender equality.

All forms of discrimination should be discarded in the workforce, whether in the government or private society. Discrimination against women still remains the most widespread injustice in the world.

Dr S. Nathesan