Gender disparity increases at more senior roles, study says


GENDER disparity increases at more senior roles, according to a workplace report by the Association of Certified Chartered Accounts (ACCA), where it widens at higher levels of management.

According to ACCA Malaysia’s report, Malaysia Empowering the Advancement of Women in the Workplace, the chasm of gender disparity tends to grow at senior roles.

“While recruitment of new staff is perceived as being gender-neutral with regard to salaries, benefits and career opportunity development, distinct gender disparity was noticed as talents progressed in seniority, with the gap widening at higher levels of management,” it stated.

Former ACCA president and ACCA Malaysia Women’s Network chair Datuk Alexandra Chin said the company acknowledges the achievements made by women leaders locally and around the world, noting them as significant contributors to economic and social development.

“This report underscores the importance of taking concrete steps to be more supportive and inclusive so that more women can achieve their full potential, in this way we can create a more diverse business environment that adds value to the nation,” he said.

Similarly, the findings also noted that the pervasive gap between the perception of men and women on initiatives to support women’s career advancement.

“Far fewer men than women believe that female employees face any gender-based inequality at work.

“Women placed more importance on initiatives such as flexible working arrangement (80% versus 60%), supportive immediate superior (73% versus 59%), career development opportunities (72% versus 59%), competitive wage and other financial benefits (67% versus 44%) and a good maternity leave policy (65% versus 50%),” the study found.

It also noted that the majority of women (80%) who take a career break do so to raise a family or have a better work-life balance.

“Most career breaks last less than a year but a significant proportion (38%) faced difficulties in their attempts to re-enter the workforce,” it said.

On top of gender disparities and work-life balance, the study found that sexual harassment towards women professionals is common but only a few companies have sufficient channels or formal mechanisms for reporting such incidents.

“One out of four women (25%) have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace. Only 43% of the respondents’ organisations have policies on sexual harassment,” it said.

Subsequently, a few recommendations in order to address the challenges include improving the design and availability of flexible work arrangements, which can be established for both men and women to allow more equal distribution of family responsibilities.

Remuneration packages should also be designed to fit different working arrangements, while equitable leadership and sponsorship programmes to enable opportunities for advancement should also be provided.

The report also recommended the redesign of government policies and incentives to attract and retain women professionals, as well as develop a clear framework and separate legislation to deal with sexual harassment reports more efficiently.

Meanwhile, ACCA Malaysia country head Edward Ling said around the world, the company calls for women and men to challenge preconceptions to define one’s own route to success.

“In this way, we take greater control of our career, so we can make good decisions that shape our future and drive us towards the goals we envision for ourselves,” he said.