10 Apr 2017 12:40:20 PM

Keeping Women Talents

TalentCorp CEO Shareen Shariza Dato' Abdul Ghani took two career breaks to raise her three sons but she quickly got back on her career path as she was driven by passion, perseverance and grit.
“I am a strong believer of the cliché that anything is possible once you set your heart and mind to it. To make a difference, you will constantly challenge yourself and get out of the comfort zone.” says Shareen in an email interview.

Like most young people, she started out with a lot of ideals and ambition. She was never conscious about her gender and knew that with exceptional performance, one could go very far in their career.
Shareen who has worked for over 20 years in various industries including retail, capital markets, social and humanitarian sectors as well as in the corporate sustainability space says,
Women have the will and strength to overcome their self perceived limitations. We just need to know what we want, and be focused on how to achieve it. It is not going to be easy, but it is do-able.”
Prior to TalentCorp, she was the Director of Corporate Responsibility at Khazanah Nasional Berhad (Khazanah).

Before that, she was Chief Operations Officer at Mercy Malaysia, where she served in humanitarian missions to Darfur, Sri Lanka, Iran, Aceh and remote areas throughout Malaysia.

Shareen says she is motivated by “the spiritual belief that we are here for a purpose, one that is larger than ourselves. This sense of purpose becomes stronger and more defined as you grow older, guided by experience and wisdom. To me, I'm always a student, always still learning and constantly seeking new knowledge in my journey through life.”.
She believes other women too should be given the opportunity to maximise their potential.

TalentCorp believes it's vital to retain women in the workforce and to encourage women to return to work. 

Women make up half of our nation's population and accounted for 63% of enrolment in Malaysia's public universities in the 2013/14 academic year. However, women tend to exit the workforce in their late 20s to early 30s, to tend to family commitments. This includes single women who took career breaks due to personal reasons, including caring for family members such as their ageing parents.

According to the 2013 TalentCorp ACCA Retaining Women in the Workforce survey, the top three causes women leave the workforce are to raise a family, lack of work-life balance and care for a family member. Shareen explains
Unlike other neighbouring countries, Malaysia's female labour force participation rate is single peaked. This means that once these women leave the workforce, they do not typically return, unlike women from Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, whose women typically return to the workforce in their later years.”
When Malaysian working women are ready to return to the workforce, they face various hurdles including limited options for flexible work arrangements (FWA) which pose a challenge to them managing their family commitments and their responsibilities at work, bias (where employers are hesitant to offer jobs to candidates who have gaps in their employment history) and lack of confidence in the women returnees as they are perceived to be out of touch from their respective fields.

To help facilitate the return of women back to the workforce, the Career Comeback Programme (CCP) was announced in 2015 by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during the Budget 2015 speech.

Under this initiative, TalentCorp actively matches résumés submitted by these latent talents to job opportunities shared by employers who are open to hiring them. To date, CCP has helped more than 400 women find career opportunities in sectors ranging from information technology, human resources, engineering and consulting.

Additionally, TalentCorp plays a role in promoting the adoption of FWA in the Malaysian corporate sector through extensive private and public partnerships. FWA represents the future of how work is done and what the workforce of the future expects in their career development.

To assist Malaysian employers embrace and fully understand FWA, TalentCorp released the My Work, My Future: Embracing The Winning Formula For Flexible Working Arrangements report, explained Shareen.
Based on TalentCorp's work with leading employers since 2013, the publication gives five winning formulas to meet the needs of the FWA – drive productivity through flexibility, walk before running, keep people in and costs managed, think beyond gender, and practise and policy makes perfect.

Women have been recognised as a key resource to help spur economic growth in the world. Promoting equitable practices and increasing women's participation in the workforce is a smart economic move as more women in the workforce could potentially increase Malaysia's GDP from RM6bil to RM9bil, according to McKinsey's Women Matter: An Asian Perspective (2012).

In 2015, Malaysia's Female Labour Participation Rate (FLPR) was recorded at 54.1%, an increase from 46% in 2009. This is an encouraging achievement given that the FLPR had remained stagnant for at least five years prior to 2009. The increase from 46% to 54.1% translated to an additional 750,000 women in the workforce, which the World Bank has estimated to have contributed an additional 0.3% GDP growth per annum. The country's FLPR has continued its steady increase, and for 2016, it was at 54.3%.
This indicates Malaysia is on the right track. However, we do need to work harder to ensure we achieve the target of 59% by 2020. Shareen believes diversity should be represented at various levels within the workforce and Malaysian women, especially, should be fairly represented in boardrooms.
TalentCorp has worked on employer targeted efforts to promote the adoption of FWA policies in the workplace and encourage talented professional women on career breaks to return to the workplace via CCP. We also actively participate in collaborative programmes with the corporate sector to advocate for more opportunities for women to rise to the top within their organisations.”
As of the end of 2015, based on annual returns compiled by Bursa Malaysia, across all listed companies, women held 26.3% of top management positions, and if focused only on the top 100 listed companies (representing 82% of market capitalisation), women held 28.4% of top management positions, reports TalentCorp's Diversity in the Workplace (2015).

These efforts aim to encourage the corporate sector to provide work environments conducive to employee productivity, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity and abilities.

In 2013, TalentCorp introduced the Life@Work awards to recognise and celebrate top employers that promote diversity, work-life balance and flexible work arrangements. Since then, the organisation has successfully run the Awards for four consecutive years. In 2016, the Awards was enhanced to recognise employers who champion the diversity and spirit of inclusion through their workplace polices.
* This article was originally published in The Star2 on 31 March 2017.

ABOUT THIS INITIATIVE

The Career Comeback Programme offers professional women the opportunity to relaunch their career after a long hiatus. 

Find out how this programme can help you to return to the workforce at our website