Friday, June 14, 2024

Break The Bias

 The year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) – held on 8 March – was about breaking conscious and unconscious biases, stereotypes, and discrimination that make it hard for women around the world to move forward… acknowledging that these hurdles exist and calling for progressive action to achieve true gender equality.

But what does it take to Break the Bias?

In conjunction with IWD2022, the Women’s Chapter of the Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) commissioned The IBR Asia Group to interview and produce a video where distinguished women in Malaysia spoke about what women really want and what it takes to eliminate the obstacles that impede women from reaching their full potential.

International Business Review is proud to showcase these inspiring women and their thoughts in these pages. Because Breaking the Bias is not just a one-off thing and celebrating and advocating the progress of women is not just something to do for one day in a year alone.

UPLIFTING WOMEN TOGETHER

“Life is not easy for anyone, no matter how it may seem from the outside. Whether you are a Head of State or royalty, an office worker or a celebrity – we all have our fears, anxieties, pain, sadness that we hide from the outside world with a smile. It’s because the world wants to see a smile and not a frown. The world wants to see happiness not sadness. And this is so much more a women’s burden – to carry all her sadness and pain inside her and never show it to anyone. We always put our best foot forward, our best smile, and our best composition because we are the nucleus of the family, the strong horse that pulls the cart, and the goddess that has to be infallible.

Therefore, I think the most important element of unity must come from women themselves. We must Break the Bias that we have set among ourselves. Too often, a woman who seems to have it all is the subject of jealousy and envy among others and no one knows the struggles she has had to get there. So, we must encourage and support one another, and not hurt each other.

The sisterhood is sacred. Let’s celebrate it.”

HRH Sultanah Kalsom Abdullah

THE FREEDOM TO CHOOSE

“I would like to share that one in four jobs in Malaysia are related to the tourism industry. A total of 3.5 million workers, of which 48.3 percent are women. I am proud of that. It’s not easy for a woman. You have to raise children and also show that you are successful in life because you are a role model for other women.

As women in Malaysia, we have to be very determined. We need to make sure that we have our own plans. Don’t worry about what others say and make sure we focus. That’s what I do for myself: I focus on what I want to achieve in life especially when it comes to helping the people. I am a people-centric person so that is why I know what I want to do for women. I want a world where women are allowed the freedom to choose – to work or to stay at home. And when she’s working, the industry and the infrastructure are supportive of her. Happy International Women’s Day to all the women out there. Always believe in yourself!”

Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri Minister, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture

EMPOWERING WOMEN LEADERS

“Society’s expectations, the traditions imposed on us… a woman these days finds herself facing a lot of resistance and perhaps, at some point, condemnation from society when she asserts herself. Women have dreams and aspirations of their own and are perfectly able to balance the roles of being a working mother. Women leaders have proven to be more empathic and relate better to stakeholders in ways that are more conducive in a world that is driven by strife. We are blessed with maternal instincts – we are mothers by default. Therefore, women in mainstream positions should look at promoting women at every possible opportunity.

Empowering women is what I have been trying to do for the past 20 years. I have founded the Council of Malaysian Women Political Leaders (COMWEL) to push for a 30 percent representation in State Assemblies and Parliament. Currently, the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities boasts at least 34 percent women in positions of leadership such as CEOs, Chairman, and Board of Directors in all the agencies and councils under the Ministry’s purview. Let’s all join hands and make it happen. Happy International Women’s Day!”

Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin Minister, Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities

WOMEN CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

“If you believe that there is a bias, that should motivate you to put forward your best effort in everything that you do. At the end of the day, the fruits of your labour of work are something that other people cannot deny or discredit. Saidatina Khadijah is a significant example of breaking the bias. She was a shining example of a strong, independent Muslim woman with an entrepreneurial spirit. She drove her business towards success despite all the stereotypes put on women during her time. Therefore, to Break the Bias, we as women need to showcase our best qualities so that we can be seen beyond our gender. Other than that, when you are a woman in a position of power, it should be your responsibility to empower the women who work under you. I believe empowered women will make a change to the world, and strengthen society as a whole. A woman alone has power, but collectively, a group of women can create an impact.”

Datuk Haslina Abdul Hamid Secretary General,

Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries

OVERCOMING THE SUBCONSCIOUS BIAS

“The only bias that we need to fight against is the bias that we have allowed to creep into our minds and settle in – the bias that we have allowed ourselves to believe. Because if we don’t believe it, nothing anyone says or does, will make a difference. Everything begins and ends with the mind. So if we are going to Break the Bias for women as a community collectively, then let’s have the courage to face the elephant in the room and look at the root cause of why there even is a bias in the first place.

What I want for women all over the world is for the hypocrisy to end. We cannot have leaders who represent women empowerment or development saying that a woman has to know her place. If you say or even imply this, you are not breaking the bias – you are setting the bias. If you say you stand for women empowerment, then we have to raise our girls so that their worth is determined by themselves. We have to look at our culture, religion and society and see how any part of it may impede a woman from actually valuing herself as richly as she deserves to. Then, we have to be that brave parent and teach our little girl that she is enough so she will grow up believing in herself. And only then will the bias be truly broken. All biases are set in our subconscious and we need to remove it – either remove it ourselves or we allow our leaders to remove it for us.”

Datuk Beatrice Nirmala

Chairwoman, DEWI (Women’s Chapter of MAICCI)

CEO, The IBR Asia Group Founder, VOICE OF ASEAN

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN

I am a firm believer that everyone, especially women, should be given equal opportunities in all matters. But our world faces a persistent gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women and men. Guaranteeing the rights of women and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical, not only for attaining gender equality but also for meeting international development goals. Women empowerment is a combination of increasing a woman’s sense of self-worth, her decision-making power, access to opportunities and resources, her power and control over her own life inside and outside of her home, and her ability to effect change. Women are capable of contributing towards self, family, and social development – economically and politically. Women are widely underrepresented as decision-makers. In legislatures around the world, women are outnumbered four to one. I hope women can be given equal opportunities to thrive in the society, economy, and political arena. Because if men can, women can too! This can only be done when everyone starts playing their role to support women and girls to develop their self-esteem and leadership skills. And this has to start at home. We need to Break the Bias.

Datuk Suriani Datuk Ahmad

Secretary General, Ministry of Entrepreneurial Development and Cooperatives

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