Executive recruitment company talks to Malaysia executive women in the workplace


Gurveena Kaur and Jasvin Kaur have both forged successful careers as executive recruitment consultants with Kuala Lumpur-based Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia, a company that embraces a diverse office environment. The two women, who specialize in place executive job candidates with leading Malaysian and multinational companies, share their thoughts on recent government steps toward empowering women, and interview a number of their fellow females working in executive jobs.

MALAYSIA has been taking a number of positive steps forward since Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad was returned to office, including the appointment of Dato' Seri Dr. Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail as the Southeast Asian nation’s first deputy prime minister. And five out of a total of 26 ministers are women and four of 26 deputy ministers.

In business, women are increasingly important in Malaysia across a number of sectors, including technology. Just look at Malaysian Hooi Ling Tan, the woman behind ride-hailing, ride sharing and logistics services company Grab.

In the Industrial sector, Kwong Foong Yee is the highly respected general manager of information technology (IT) for CCM Berhad, Malaysia’s leading chemical company.

But there remains important work to be done to lower the glass ceiling.

This is particularly true as millennials become the dominant majority of a workforce that will see women working across a greater range of male-dominated fields such as technology and engineering.

Harnessing the power and expertise of women is essential for Malaysia and its economy.

Growth areas where we need talent include industrial automation, big data analytics and cloud computing.

Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia, an international award winning executive recruitment company, deals with dozens of highly talented, experienced and motivated women on a daily basis.

We have taken it upon ourselves to speak with some leading women within the business world that have made ground-breaking progress in their careers.

Here are some of the questions that we posed to them:

What does it feel like today being in a position that usually is dominated by males?  What got you into this industry?

Irwana, Head of Supply Chain Department of a respected packaging company 

“I have always loved taking up challenges. I saw that prejudice was very strong, with males dominating most of the senior roles within supply chain. I then decided to take up the task of advancing my career in this male-dominated field to set an example to the society and my subordinates on how women are just as good as men, if not better”

Would you mind giving some insight into your own personal path towards empowerment?

Badariah, Director of Sales within the hospitality industry 

“One day I felt the urge to take matters into my own hands and control my own destiny by not fitting in with the ‘female stereotype’. This gave me a lot more confidence, which I used to push my career progression in the direction towards where I am today. As women, the times we are most able to feel greater than men are when the confidence comes from within, not given by someone else. We must not seek external validation.  If every woman follows this chain of thought, we would surely be able to change many people’s mindsets and the general consensus at large.”

What are those stereotypes you have come across when pursuing your career in such field? 

Irwana, Head of Supply Chain Department of a respected packaging company 
 
“I still remember when I was not given a job role solely based on the fact that I was a woman. The feedback I received was that this employer would prefer a male candidate as he felt that males were “better leaders” and “more aggressive”. However, I did not stop there, neither did I let it discourage me. I had to work hard to show my capabilities were above beyond what the organization had initially thought. I constantly put in extra hours, even at night, I was always busy, always working. Eventually I became the first female employee from my company within the APAC region to hold a position as high as the head of department. Sometimes as a woman you have to go beyond what is expected, just for a seat at the table. However, if you persevere the future will always look bright.”

In your opinion, what role could men play supporting female empowerment?

Belle, General Manager of Operations of a well-known Event company in Malaysia 

“Men can always contribute by initiating the empowerment of women. Be it as a husband, father, or even brother, they can use their privilege and status to shine a light on strong capable women within society who deserve more recognition”

Irwana, Head of Supply Chain Department of a reputable packaging company 

“I do not subscribe to claims that women are ‘unwilling to travel’. I frequently travel around the globe for work purposes, and I have never had a problem with it, largely due to the fact that I have always gotten good support from my family. They understand my ambition. Family matters a lot when it comes to female empowerment. The role of the males should be to equally encourage and understand that women in this era do not just belong in the kitchen but are also able to hustle at work and have ambitions to grow within their careers.”

Belle, General Manager of Operations of a well-known Event company in Malaysia 

“The world is your oyster: the opportunities are endless and there is always a way! If you believe in yourself, always learn, keep improving and most importantly maintain a great positive attitude, I believe nothing is impossible” 

Badariah, Director of Sales within the hospitality industry 

“Be an individual so that people view you first, not your gender. “

Given that you are working full time, how do you delegate your household responsibilities with your partner? How do you balance your time with work? 

Belle, General Manager of Operations of a well-known Event company in Malaysia 

“Every partner needs to understand that household duties are not just responsibilities of women but are meant to be shared equally between the husband and the wife. We see each other as equal partners we BOTH have careers and we BOTH hold the same responsibility at home. This arrangement comes with understanding, respect and support for each other. We both know about each other’s nature of work and respective schedules, we make arrangements from there and we manage to balance our career, life and family. It is important to understand each other’s priorities, encourage time management, and to make time and be present for our loved ones.”

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the enrolment rate for tertiary level education for women in Malaysia stands at almost 50 percent, whereas only 37.8 percent of the total male population in Malaysia pursued their tertiary level education in 2017. 

As women in the corporate world and as recruitment consultants in Kuala Lumpur, we deal with multinational corporations daily, we are aware of some of the assumptions made about female employees and at times we have had to maneuver through stereotypical assertions to convince many parties of women’s capability of performing in most of industries that too “male dominated”. 

Jasvin Kaur, an Executive Recruitment Consultant at Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia believes that:

“The desire for socio-economic, corporate and political equality is higher than ever. Women have started to remedy their own cause by enrolling in universities and equipping themselves for an extremely competitive market upon graduation, evidenced by the fact that we have a higher percentage of woman formalizing and finishing their tertiary education than ever before. They no longer see themselves as incapable of delivering results in male-dominated industries. Study trends can be found in growing industries like automation and chemical production, where we are starting to see more women get involved within the technical capacity and not merely being limited to human resources (HR), administration or finance roles. My experience in the executive recruitment industry in Malaysia has taught me that many multinational company have been setting up their shared service centers here in Malaysia, which offers even more job opportunities. As a recruitment consultant with Monroe Consulting Group Indonesia in Kuala Lumpur, we are seeing women hold progressive roles in respected organizations like the women mentioned above. The mentality surrounding career-focused women is certainly moving in the right direction and it is up to women AND men, to maintain this trend and to fully change the stereotypes and stigmas present in the developing world.” 

Gurveena Kaur, an Executive Recruitment Consultant at Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia is of the firm belief that:

“Every individual plays a huge role in ensuring that women are given the same opportunities as men. Likewise, corporations also play a pivotal role in creating environments and cultivating cultures of diversity and inclusivity. Therefore, working as an executive recruitment consultant in an organization like Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia, where women are the majority of the employees, encourages female employees when they look at their career prospects and they see a company with multiple female managing directors and heads of departments. It shows us that there is indeed no glass ceiling and that our success is going to be judged fairly, based solely on capabilities and merit with no other personal or subjective considerations. I have been lucky enough to work for some forward-thinking multinational corporations that incentivize search executives to find female candidates for certain positions that are otherwise male dominated. I believe that many corporations would benefit from a similar outlook and mindset, as there is a clear forward moving trend towards full equality and the quicker the corporations are able to progressively get on board, the quicker we will be able to see more tangible participation in the socio-economic, commercial, corporate and political sphere across all sectors. 

“Monroe Consulting Group Malaysia has equality embedded in its DNA, hence when we are looking for examples of strong, independent, smart, multi-talented and capable women, we can look no further than the 4 walls of or very own office. In both our Malaysia- and China-based headquarters, we are proudly being led by two incredible female Managing Directors. In addition to this, our Malaysia office has a headcount that is 55 percent female. We try express our support for full equality in the work place, not only through words and articles, but also through actions and recruitment practices. “

To summarise, men, women, corporations and the government all have roles to play in ensuring women feel empowered. When someone feels empowered in their daily lives, they begin to strengthen their own capacity for self-awareness, which creates the space for growth. In this fast-paced era we are all living in, let us embrace our women and all do our part, men and women alike, to strive towards full equality and a better future.

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