A Change in Narrative to Break the Bias

07/03/2022 09:26 PM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.
Oleh :
Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad

By Datuk Seri Dr. Noraini Ahmad

Women are just as good as men in politics, economics, science and innovation, etc. This is the narrative we should be normalising in efforts to “Break the Bias” against women, which happens to be the theme for International Women’s Day 2022.

It is high time for us to shatter the age-long belief that women play secondary roles in the development and well-being of our country.

In Malaysia, women constitute almost half of the country’s population. To be exact, 47.7% of the 32.5 million Malaysian population are women. The women of our nation play a significant role in the country’s development as well as in the socio-economic welfare of our families.

Malaysia fully supports the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fourth and fifth SDGs aim to achieve quality education as well as to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

More women in the labour market

One of the greatest changes in Malaysia in recent years has been the increase of women in the labour market. In 2007, the women’s labour force participation rate or LFPR was 46.4%. In 2021, it was 55.4%.

Last year, 20.6% or more than 180,000 small-medium enterprises were owned by women. These businesses contribute a substantial amount of almost RM70 billion to the country's Gross Domestic Product, which has offered nearly 800,000 job opportunities with employment worth more than RM11.1 billion.

On the academic front, many of our women academicians have succeeded in various fields. In 2021, 58.6% of the total number of projects that have been approved under the Ministry of Higher Education’s fundamental research fund programme were led by women. This funding programme only approves high-quality research proposals that are of excellent scientific merit, with the ability to contribute to the government, industry, society, academia and environment. The recipients consist of full Professors, Associate Professors and Senior Lecturers from various higher education institutions (HEIs) across the country. Based on their areas of expertise, these women represent diverse fields including Clinical and Health Sciences, Pure and Applied Science, Information and Communication Technology, Social Science as well as Arts and Applied Arts.

Women academicians have also demonstrated their capabilities in university administrative positions. For instance, the largest university in Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), is spearheaded by a woman Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ts. Dr. Roziah Mohd Janor. She is supported by two women Deputy Vice Chancellors, namely Prof. Datin Dr. Suzana Sulaiman (Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic and International) and Prof. Dr. Norazah Abd Rahman (Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation).

To date, Malaysia's public universities have 11 women in the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor. More specifically, two from UiTM, Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, respectively; and one each from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and Universiti Malaysia Kelantan.

The women in Malaysia’s HEIs have played an active role in advocating Malaysia as an international higher education hub. In 2021, there were more women staff (17,961; 56.8%) compared to men (13,646; 43.2%) in our public HEIs. Our public HEIs also host more female students (359,973; 61%) compared to male students (230,525; 39%). In addition, almost 60% of over 15,000 staff at the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) consist of women. Based on these figures, I predict that we will witness greater achievement among the women of Malaysia in the near future.

Empowering women

Research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed that increasing female education contributed to about 50% of the economic growth in OECD countries over the past 50 years.

Understanding this, the Malaysian Government has dedicated the third initiative under the 2022 budget to women empowerment initiatives. Among the initiatives highlighted is the inclusion of women on boards, where at least one female director must be appointed for all public-listed companies. Additionally, RM30 million has been allocated for nurseries in government buildings, especially in public hospitals and universities. In terms of women's health, the government will provide subsidies for mammogram and cervical cancer screening tests, totalling RM 11.5 million.

Such initiatives are in line with the idea that when women are given the chance to reach their highest potential, the nation stands a higher chance of prospering as a whole.

For this year’s International Women’s Day, it is my wish for us to call out gender bias and inequality not only today but every day. Together, let’s “Break the Bias” on International Women’s Day and beyond.

Happy International Women’s Day 2022!



Datuk Seri Dr. Noraini Ahmad is the Minister of Higher Education, Malaysia.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)