LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network has launched LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021. The annual Index is a composite measure that seeks to understand how people perceive opportunities and the gaps that stand in the way of achieving them. This year’s research looks at the impact of the pandemic on Malaysians’ access to opportunities. More importantly, it spotlights the gender gaps that continue to exist in the workplace, and how these affect women’s opportunities for career development.
Malaysians seeking out new skills and ways to give back to the community, despite facing a difficult job market with reduced working hours and pay cuts
About 6 out of 10 Malaysians were affected by COVID-19 in terms of pay cuts, a difficult job search and reduced working hours. This has likely led to a less optimistic economic outlook amongst Malaysians, with only 1 in 5 (21 percent) expecting the economy to improve over the next 6 months and even fewer (19 percent) expecting their financial situation to improve over the same period.
Despite the bleak economic outlook, there were some positives as Malaysians sought new opportunities — including starting their own business (23 percent), providing safety support items such as sanitisers and masks to their communities (33 percent), with women leading the way. Actively seeking mentors (28 percent), building or nurturing a network (23 percent) and mentoring others (21 percent) were also key opportunities pursued by Malaysians.
We have also seen that over 1 in 4 (26 percent) Malaysians started looking for opportunities to move to a new career path. Learning new soft skills — including creative thinking, problem solving and effective communication — was ranked as the first learning opportunity people were looking for in Malaysia (31 percent), and this was sought after more by Gen Z, students and career starters. Learning new hard skills — business analytics, artificial intelligence and cloud computing — were ranked second (30 percent) and were sought after by Gen Z, millennials and students.
About a year on since COVID-19 hit us, many continue to struggle from job loss and job instability. Yet it is heartening to see that people have also turned their focus towards helping the community”, said Feon Ang, Vice President, Learning and Talent Solutions, APAC, LinkedIn. “This is also a journey that we are working towards at LinkedIn because we believe in the power of community in helping others get back on their feet. We have also stepped up efforts to initiate mentorship opportunities for job seekers facing more barriers with our LinkedIn Coaches and Network Gap Alliance.”
Allowing work from home is a number one measure taken in Malaysia to ensure safety and wellbeing of employees during the pandemic, to the benefit of working women.
78 percent of Malaysians have worked from home, and 34 percent of women feel satisfied with current work home arrangements, compared to 31 percent of men. While working from home posed challenges which resulted in poor productivity (51 percent), an overwhelming majority were worried about COVID-19 affecting their health if they returned to an office setting environment. As a result, half were willing to work from home 1-2 times a week and one-third expressed the desire to work from home 3-4 times a week. With the increase in remote work, it is important for organisations to look after the well-being of their employees by encouraging work-life balance. This is likely to encourage more women to re-enter the workforce, as the flexibility will allow them to balance work and family responsibilities.
Women face considerable barriers in achieving work-related opportunities, compared to men, despite pursuing similar goals
While many women in Malaysia now have the flexibility to work from home, they face other barriers when it comes to achieving opportunities, including lack of time (65 percent) and their financial status (64 percent). Lack of confidence or fear of failure (61 percent) and a difficult job market (60 percent) are also cited as barriers women face.
In spite of these barriers, women are prepared to work hard, but they desire equal access to opportunities as men. In fact, women see these two as among the most important aspects (80 percent and 72 percent respectively) to getting ahead in life.
Over 4 in 10 of Malaysians say that gender equality has improved compared to their parents’ time, however, many still feel gender bias continues to exist in the workplace
45 percent of women feel they have fewer career advancement opportunities than men, and 4 in 10 feel they are paid less than men in their profession. In fact, almost 6 in 10 women in Malaysia have experienced that their gender played a role in missing out on opportunities, promotion and pay raises.
Our research suggests that this mindset may stem from broader societal perceptions around gender. While 58 percent think that gender equality is an important value for a fair society, close to half (44 percent) feel that gender equality has improved compared to their parent’s time. Furthermore, one third think that gender equality is impossible to achieve. This potentially shows that Malaysians feel not much more can or should be done to further gender equality.
Ang said, “Malaysia’s workforce has taken a hit due to COVID-19 across the board, women included. The lack of time is the top barrier for women today — likely due to having to juggle remote working and family responsibilities. We also know that women are seeking to get ahead in life, and want equal access to opportunity as men. As a society, we need to start changing our societal perceptions on gender. In our organisations, too, we need to level the playing field for women. When we succeed, the economy and our organisations succeed as well.”
Businesses’ role to bridge the gender gap and ensure equitable recovery for all
Encourage open conversations on diversity
Our data shows that only 11 percent of working professionals in Malaysia strongly agree that gender diversity is a priority in their organisation. However, our data shows that conversations around diversity have been growing in Malaysia. More senior leaders are initiating conversations about diversity and this is the right way forward. Empowering senior leadership to talk openly about diversity and adopt values like inclusivity is an excellent way to shift organisational mindset, while at the same time attracting a more diverse talent pool.
Initiate group mentoring programmes in the company to help women soar in their roles
More than half of Malaysians feel that women have fewer career advancement opportunities, and are paid less than men in their profession. At LinkedIn, we have programmes that support our community of women in their professional growth. For example, EmpowerIn is a leadership development programme to help high-performing women realise their full potential at the workplace. After three very successful cycles of the programme, we are committed to running our fourth cycle virtually this year.
Implement policies to help women balance work and personal life
Research indicates women and working mothers in Malaysia expect organisations to provide them with work from home (32 percent), reduced schedules (30 percent) and part time schedule (27 percent) options. Expectation for maternity leave is also a strong sentiment for over one-third of women and for 2 out of 5 working mothers. This suggests that women are aware and more vocal about the support they need from the workplace in order to balance work and family responsibilities effectively.
To help people and businesses take steps to improve gender equality in the workplace, LinkedIn is making 5 LinkedIn Learning courses available for free till March 31, 2021.
- Leadership Strategies for Women
- Planning Your Family Leave and Return
- Proven Success Strategies for Women at Work
- Own It: The Power of Women at Work
- Becoming a Male Ally at Work
“There is strength in numbers. When more organisations come together, we can do more to help bring equitable recovery for all. It always starts with one small step — from encouraging open conversations on diversity and equality, and advocating for practical initiatives from flexible working hours to mentoring programmes. We must foster the right culture and values in our organisation, to ensure that everyone progresses together, and no one is left behind. When we do this, we can achieve so much more,” said Ang.