ACCA Malaysia Launches Women’s Network in Conjunction with International Women’s Day 2018
Forty years on from the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ being used to define thwarted careers and ambitions – especially for women – ACCA is calling for business leaders to show real and measurable progress on diversity and social mobility issues, as it marks International Women’s Day 2018. The global theme for this year’s event is #pressforprogress, seeking advances on a number of issues from gender pay parity to equality of opportunity. And to mark the occasion, ACCA Malaysia is launching its first Women’s Network, chaired by ACCA’s past-president Datuk Alexandra Chin FCCA.

Commenting on the launch of the Women’s Network, Datuk Alexandra Chin said, ‘Here in Malaysia, 59% of our members are women and the number continues to grow. With the launch of ACCA Malaysia Women’s Network today, young and aspiring female members of ACCA in Malaysia would be able to gain access to senior and successful ACCA members who can mentor them. ACCA women in Malaysia can now look forward to programmes and networking opportunities specially catered for them.’
‘Looking forward, if there’s an area where I’d like to see sustained progress, it’s to ensure career ladders breakthrough the glass ceiling for women. We have to take a wider view and seek progress on social mobility – unequal access to opportunities still exist for many women and men.’

Microsoft Celebrates International Women’s Day by Encouraging Young Women in Asia to #MakeWhatsNext
To mark International Women’s Day, Microsoft is launching its #MakeWhatsNext campaign. The campaign aims to encourage young women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Today, the number of women pursuing STEM education and careers is still low despite technology making tremendous progress over the last few decades. UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) estimates that only 23% of researchers in East Asia and the Pacific are women and only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields of study are female.

One of the reasons for this gender imbalance in STEM subjects is the lack of role models for young women to be inspired by, and grow confidence in the ability to pursue careers in those sectors. In fact, only 1 in 4 girls aged between 12 to 19 years of age in the region know a female public figure in the field of STEM. “We want to change the way young women view STEM by letting them envision how technology, science, engineering can be tools used to solve global challenges; how their interests today could turn into a job of the future. We’re inviting girls to explore their passions further and gain insights from LinkedIn on how to make their dream job a reality. To make it happen, we are introducing all girls, including those from underserved communities, to female role models from different industries as well as hands-on, purpose-driven experiences where STEM concepts are linked to real-life situations,” said Dr. Daiana Beitler, Philanthropies Director, Microsoft Asia. To mark International Women’s Day, Microsoft will be releasing a micro-film profiling five extraordinary female role models from Asia, who are using STEM to invent new ways to change the world.

In Malaysia, Microsoft marks this campaign with its partnership with Girls in Tech (GiT) to promote STEM education. GiT is a global non-profit focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of girls and women who are passionate about technology. Founded in 2007, it aims to create a support framework to help women advance their careers in STEM field. GIT aims to accelerate the growth of innovative women entering into the high-tech industry and building startups. This is achieved through the creation of proprietary, innovative programming and strategic global partnerships. Microsoft, along with partners from both public and private sectors, are driving activities to inspire girls to pursue their passion in STEM across the entire region – even beyond March 8. These activities address three key areas to encourage women to step into STEM-related careers: increasing exposure to role models in STEM, creating opportunities for hands-on experiences that show how STEM can shape the future and helping individuals to envision a future with STEM

Glass ceiling cracked, but not smashed
Helen Brand OBE, ACCA’s chief executive, says: ‘2018 is the 40th anniversary of the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ first being used by business consultant Marilyn Loden. ‘Looking forward, if there’s one area where I wish to see sustained progress, it’s to ensure career ladders breakthrough the glass ceiling for women. We have to take a wider view and seek progress on social mobility – unequal access to opportunities still exists for many women and men.

‘ACCA has welcomed policies to address issues such as disparity in pay and boardroom diversity in the UK and globally. There are examples of good practice highlighted in our recent report Generation next: managing talent in large accountancy firms which shows how the Big Four are addressing diversity to ensure women have a place and voice in their business. This includes KPMG’s women in finance forum and Deloitte conducting ‘blind interviews’ to tackle recruitment bias.’

Reuter Chua, head of ACCA Singapore adds: ‘The accountancy profession is an attractive career choice for many because of the flexibility and choice it offers. At ACCA we’ve made opportunity a reality, with an open access policy that enables anyone to qualify as a professional accountant. By simply removing the need for prior qualifications, we’ve created access to a profession that offers a rewarding career.’ ACCA says employers and their recruitment strategies are part of the success equation for diversity. Reuter Chua continues: ‘As our Gen Next report shows, creating the leaders of tomorrow is an on-going task for firms. The tone clearly has to be set from the top, with a transparent culture that’s committed to diversity. We have to measure this progress too – after all, what’s not measured can’t be managed. ‘Effective corporate leadership is needed to achieve real and lasting progress. At ACCA we believe this can be made through open discussion, transparent reporting and ensuring diversity is an integral part of how we work now and in the future.’

ACCA has also asked its ACCA Singapore women members about social mobility in a report called Purpose and the Profession:
Career advancement: 89% of women members in Singapore agree that studying the ACCA Qualification gave them access to great opportunities to advance their career
Accountancy opens doors: 80% agree that the ACCA qualification has enabled them to have access to opportunities regardless of my background.
Opportunities for all: 73% say it is very important that career opportunities are available to people regardless of their social background.
Progress for the next generation: In Singapore only 6% of women members’ parents had a University degree/Post-grad degree or equivalent in a finance / accounting related subject.

More firms in Singapore with at least one woman in senior role but gender diversity still low
While more companies in Singapore now have at least one woman holding a senior management role, improving gender diversity at the top remains a work in progress, according to a survey by global consultancy Grant Thornton. Released to mark International Women’s Day, the annual report showed 78 per cent of local businesses having at least one woman in C-suite jobs, such as chief executive officers, managing directors or partners. This is an improvement from last year’s 64 per cent. However, the proportion of the senior management team that is female was stagnant at 30 per cent, the survey showed. This is largely in line with global trends, which saw three quarters of firms around the world having at least one female in top leadership, an increase from last year’s 66 per cent. But when it comes to the overall representation of senior roles held by women, there was a marginal decrease to 24 per cent from 25 per cent.

Grant Thornton, which surveyed 4,995 businesses in 35 countries worldwide, described this as taking “one step forward but one step back on women in leadership”. “While it’s hugely positive that women are in senior roles at more businesses, it’s disappointing that they are being spread so thinly,” said Grant Thornton’s global leader for network capabilities and sponsor of women in leadership Francesca Lagerberg. “This suggests that businesses may be focused on ticking the ‘diversity’ box to avoid an all-male leadership team, rather than creating an inclusive culture.”

The annual report also showed that emerging economies continue to outperform in gender diversity in the corporate boardrooms, with Africa and Eastern Europe leading the way. This explains why Singapore is underperforming its fellow ASEAN counterparts, said Ms Lorraine Parkin, partner and head of tax services at Grant Thornton Singapore. When it comes to having at least one woman in senior leadership, 84 per cent of companies across Southeast Asia fulfilled the criteria. However, Singapore is at the bottom of the ranking, falling behind Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. For the percentage of senior business roles held by females, Singapore is the second lowest among the ASEAN markets tracked, coming in yet again below the region’s average of 39 per cent.

Ms Parkin told Channel NewsAsia that emerging economies tend to demonstrate greater levels of gender diversity than developed regions. “This may be because businesses in developed regions are operating with established structures and ingrained behaviours, while those in emerging economies can be more adaptable as the environment around them changes frequently,” she said in an emailed response.

Meanwhile, businesses in Singapore said they are motivated to introduce gender equality policies primarily to enhance company performance (84 per cent), live up to organisational values (82 per cent), as well as attract and keep employees (72 per cent). But they cited several barriers to introducing these policies, namely the cost of implementation (26 per cent), stereotypes about gender roles (26 per cent) and the complexity of translating good intentions into practice (24 per cent).

To increase female representation at the top, Grant Thornton’s report recommended businesses to make diversity and inclusion a core value of the company, as well as set goals to measure progress. Senior leadership will also need to demonstrate commitment to the case and lead from the top, it said. It also suggested for companies to make diversity and inclusion goals part of the leadership team’s compensation packages, keep track of the benefits brought about by gender diversity and avoid tokenism.

Asian University for Women Support Foundation launches a global crowdfunding campaign to raise US $150,000 for scholarships on International Women’s Day 2018
The Asian University for Women (AUW) Support Foundation today announced the launch of a global crowdfunding campaign, #ProgressStartsWithEducation. The campaign seeks to raise US $150,000, an amount which will allow 10 women to continue their education at the liberal arts university for one year. The campaign is inspired by the worldwide theme and call to action #PressForProgress. “The developing world is faced with such a wide array of challenges, and trying to solve them individually often times only provides temporary relief,” explained Kamal Ahmad, AUW Co-founder. “In order to address the problems facing these nations from the ground up, education has to be the starting point. Meaningful, sustainable progress can be achieved when you empower young women to become leaders in their societies.” AUW has received donations and support from several corporate partners on this campaign, including Point72, Hong Kong Stock Exchange, MetLife and Fiat. Along with pledging US $60,000 to support a full-ride scholarship, Point72 also partnered with AUW to produce the campaign’s anchor video, which they are featuring on their website along with information about their ongoing commitment to the university.


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