The controversial debate on gender equality is never-ending no matter where you are in the world.
Women have been constantly fighting to get their voice out in order to exercise their equal rights to good education, lifestyle, career and more.
Fortunately, things have improved so much since earlier on, but there still needs to be a reminder for ‘balance’, be it in workplaces, schools or community groups.
And that’s the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebration: #BalanceforBetter.
According to its official website, “balance drives a better working world” and “gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive”.
That can mean, in order to empower their staff, employers themselves can take the initiative for the former’s benefit.
Let’s take 3M Malaysia, a global innovation company part of the larger, global 3M, for example.
Here, staff with diverse experiences, ethnicity, age, gender, personalities, styles and ways of thinking is presented with equal opportunities to succeed.
“These differences power our creativity and ideas, which drives our company forward and keeps us relevant and reflective of our customers and markets,” says its head of technical department Chan Yen Sze in an interview with Hijab & Heels.
She adds that 3M Malaysia offers high importance on these matters in order to maintain an inclusive culture among its staff.
“So it came as no surprise that 53 per cent of women make up the supervisory roles here currently, while almost 41 per cent of women make up the senior management team.”
Initiatives for the ladies
Catered to its female employees, 3M also held a global campaign called ‘I’m in. Accelerating Women’s Leadership’ involving talent management and leadership development components in the company.
“’I’m in’ has positively impacted many people, the work environment as well as the company culture,” Chan, 41, reveals.
“While the initiative focuses on the advancement of women in the pipeline and across the organisation, communications and programmes engage with and include all 3M employees worldwide.”
Passionate about empowering fellow female staff, Chan herself has contributed to this cause by co-founding The Women’s Leadership Forum, for which she was the chairperson for two years.
This project is part of the ‘I’m in’ initiative and focuses on accelerating the inclusion and advancement of women within the local office.
Furthermore, Chan and her colleagues worked hard in making the 3M Malaysia office a greater and more convenient space for working mothers.
“As a mother of two, I focused on leading the provision of special parking lots for pregnant women, and the enhancement of lactation rooms for nursing mothers during my tenure.”
Additionally, they also organised programs crafted to empower women at 3M Malaysia and equip them with added skills and tools for personal growth.
Sounds like an ideal place to work at for women!
Lots more ground to cover
Despite the growing support for women in the work force, Chan thinks they still can’t escape obstacles. She says a relatively neglected factor is the role of stereotypes, reinforced by social and cultural norms which underline certain expectations about gender.
“For example, when I first joined 3M Malaysia, I was assigned to handle the 3M abrasive products range,” she explains.
“Customers had doubts if I was capable enough to handle a grinder to demonstrate the cutting power of a 3M abrasive disk.”
Even though the gender gap is slowly decreasing in corporate offices, there is still progress to be made, says Chan.
“I hope to live in a world where men and women are presented with the same opportunities, be it career wise or in their personal space.
“It would also be good for a much-narrowed wage gap between both genders, and for gender stereotypes and biasness to be eradicated.
“I believe that companies can play an important role in this by taking the initiative to run programs within the company to celebrate diversity and continue developing a healthy workplace culture.”