This topic sparked a fast and fiery debate during the recent Women’s Summit, with lively participation from the audience. And yes, there were a few brave men among the audience, whom I dare say are of the more ‘open type.
Dr Zaha Rina Zahari, independent non-executive director of MAA Holdings Bhd
Rita Sim, entrepreneur and executive director of Sin Chew Media Group
Sakie Fukushima, president & representative director of G&S Global Advisors Inc; Senior Advisor, Korn/Ferry International, Japan
argued that women have no obstacles other than themselves and cited role models such as Oprah Winfrey, Angelina Jolie and our very own Tan Sri Zeti of Bank Negara fame, show that women can play in a man’s world too. Sakie referenced Japan when she said that society and culture are changing to accommodate women’s needs. “If Japan can change, so can you”.
Datuk Rafiah Salim, director of NAM Institute of Empowerment of Women
Shivani Gupta, author
Datin Mina Cheah-Foong, managing director of The Body Shop
argued that conservative men, stuffy mothers & mothers-in-law and gender inequality are just some of the many issues stopping women from achieving their very best. The floor was filled with woman after woman, weighing in on the subject matter.
A couple of points stuck out for me. An audience member pointed out – women have to be proactive and ASK for what they want. Don’t expect, hope or think in silence. Is there not a famous saying … “ask and you shall receive”? Women are also expected to juggle work, husband, children, household, taking care of parents and at times their parents in-law too. Women of today’s sandwich generation are expected to take care of their own household, their children and take care of the previous generation too, which adds on the pressure to be there for everyone, with her needs coming in last. And in these times when the price of everything has gone up, dual income families are needed more than ever. More Asian women are choosing work over family, a cause of concern for countries globally.
On several occasions, the current trending issue of the marriage of the 14 year-old bride was raised. It was evident that the women that day, regardless of age or race, were uncomfortable with the issue. Marina Mahathir also commented on violence against women and how all these add up to disadvantaging the female gender.
The session pointed out the difficulties women face in today’s world, unlike anything our mothers and grandmothers have ever faced. It is clear that we are in uncharted territory, and governments, corporations and families are unclear on how to cope with women’s increasing needs.