LinkedIn, has launched he LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021, 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 looked 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.
Six out of ten 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 one in five (21 percent) expecting the economy to improve over the next six 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.
Over one in four (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.
In response to work from home, 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 Covid19 affecting their health if they returned to an office setting environment.
As a result, half were willing to work from home one to two times a week and one-third expressed the desire to work from home three to four 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.
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.
In term of gender equality, 45 percent of women feel they have fewer career advancement opportunities than men, and four in ten feel they are paid less than men in their profession. In fact, almost six in ten women in Malaysia have experienced that their gender played a role in missing out on opportunities, promotion and pay raises.
LinkedIn research suggested 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.
Additionally, the research showed that only 11 percent of working professionals in Malaysia strongly agree that gender diversity is a priority in their organisation. However, the data showed that conversations around diversity have been growing in Malaysia. More senior leaders are initiating conversations about diversity and this is the right way forward.
More than half of Malaysians feel that women have fewer career advancement opportunities and are paid less than men in their profession. LinkedIn has 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.
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. The expectation for maternity leave is also a strong sentiment for over one-third of women and for two out of five 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.