It is an immense pleasure to be here today.
On behalf of the United Nations in Malaysia, I wish to welcome everyone to the national Ceremony for the UN Women 2022 Malaysia WEPs Awards!
This event comes as the culmination of the Equality at Work Convention, an intense and fruitful two days dedicated to exploring the role of the private sector in contributing to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
As emphasized in the remarks of Ms. Sarah Knibbs and Mr. Timo Goosmann, promoting women’s equitable economic participation is vital to ensuring both social and economic progress.
Gender equality is at the core of the 2030 Agenda. It cuts across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals and progress towards the global goals is very much dependent on action to advance gender equality and empower women.
As we begin to recover from COVID-19, we must note that progress on gender parity is not recovering.
- Globally, it is estimated the 47 million women and girls have been pushed into extreme poverty since the pandemic began.
- Women’s already disproportionate share of care and domestic work has increased with school and care centre closures. The ILO estimate that 2 million working mothers left the workforce in 2020 alone
- Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that the global gender gap would take 99 years to close. That figure now stands at 132 years
The data from Malaysia reflects a similar worrying trend.
- While Malaysia’s scores have improvement slightly in the latest Global Gender Gap Report, the country still ranks 103 out of 146 countries, ahead of only two other ASEAN countries.
- In terms of economic participation and opportunity, Malaysia ranks 88 out of 146 countries, among the lowest ASEAN member states
- Malaysia’s female labour participation rate remains one of ASEAN’s lowest at 55.5 percent, compared to an 80% participation rate for their male counterparts.
- Research conducted in 2019 showed women in Malaysia spent a daily average of 3.6 hours in domestic work compared to men’s 2.2 hours. This rate increased significantly during the pandemic and has a direct impact on women’s economic participation.
- In the most recent Malaysia Labour Force Survey, forty-two percent of the 7.27 million women in the labour force cited housework and family responsibilities as their reason for not being able to work and earn an income.
I remember highlighting some of these facts last year, but they bear repeating as an urgent call to action. We all must step up our efforts and quicken the pace of progress.
Last week, UN Women released a Gender Snapshot of Women’s Leadership in ASEAN. While the report found that women make up 41% of managers, this represents a mere 2% increase over the past twenty years!
Malaysia boasts the highest rates of women on boards in the region, but has yet to break the 30% minimum that was set for 2020.
Public policies are instrumental to catalyse systemic change. As we have heard earlier the government requirement for large firms to have at least one woman on their board is a positive legislative step. However, the ‘push’ from policymakers also needs to be met by a ‘pull’ from the private sector to lead the way and influence others to action.
The private sector has the ability – and also the responsibility – to play a pivotal role in driving women’s equal economic participation and accelerating inclusive economic growth.
I take today’s opportunity to call on more companies to amplify this pull factor and commit to diversity and inclusion efforts that create opportunities for women at all levels.
In the Women’s Empowerment Principles, companies of all sizes and sectors can find a framework to assess where they stand and create a practical action plan to become more gender-inclusive in the board room, in office spaces, among suppliers, and in the communities where they operate.
Malaysia continues to be the leader among all other Asia-Pacific countries with the most companies completing the WEPs Gender Gap Analysis Tool (more than 200), and there are nearly 100 companies that have signed on to become WEPs Signatories.
Although the WeEmpowerAsia programme has ended, we are grateful to the European Union for their dedication to this programme and for initiating the WEPs Awards.
As the United Nations in Malaysia, we renew our firm commitment to continue our collaboration with UN Women, LeadWomen, and all key stakeholders.
We will work together to advance public and private sector policies and practices in line with the Women’s Empowerment Principles.
We remain fully engaged to help Malaysia build a more gender-equal and resilient future.
I know everyone is eager to get to the awards portion of today’s event, so let me end by congratulating all the companies and leaders who are being recognized today. I also commend all other organizations that applied or are working behind the scenes to make gender-inclusive business a reality in Malaysia.