International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide and to push for gender equity even further. This year, the theme is #EmbraceEquity, and it’s a call (now more than ever) for Malaysian women to take action towards creating an equal world.

In Malaysia, despite the progress that has been made, gender inequality is still a persistent issue. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, Malaysia ranks 103rd out of 153 countries in terms of gender equality, with significant disparities in political representation and economic participation. Women face challenges in the workplace, in their personal lives, and in society at large.

Despite these challenges, all hope is not lost. By embracing these 10 small but impactful ways, women in Malaysia can push for equity in their lives and make an impact in today’s world.

1. Having self-confidence

Image by Vlada Karpovich

A critical component of achieving equity is having the confidence to speak up and advocate for oneself. Like many women worldwide, Malaysian women often struggle with impostor syndrome and self-doubt, which can hold them back from reaching their fullest potential.

This can be especially true in the workplace, where women may feel intimidated by male-dominated environments or fear being perceived as ‘difficult’ or ‘bossy’ if they assert themselves.

When it comes to being confident in the workplace, women can start small by setting clear and achievable goals and striving to balance being assertive yet respectful in their communication style. It’s also important to build a network of allies and advocates, and to seek out mentorship and coaching opportunities to build confidence and develop their leadership skills.

Remember, self-confidence is not about being perfect or always knowing the answers; it’s about having the courage to speak up, take risks, and believe in oneself. You go, girl!

2. Prioritise self-care

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Working mothers in Malaysia face unique challenges, including the pressure to balance their responsibilities at home and in the workplace. According to a study by the Women’s Aid Organisation, more than 80% of Malaysian women who work outside the home also do most household chores, even when they have employed partners. This added workload can be overwhelming, leaving working mothers little time or energy for self-care.

Self-care is critical to maintaining one’s health and well-being and is definitely not selfish. To practice self-care, working mothers (and all women) can try the following tips:

  • Schedule regular ‘me time’ into their daily or weekly routine, such as a relaxing bath or a walk in nature.
  • Prioritise sleep and aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.
  • Take breaks throughout the day to stretch, drink water, and take deep breaths.
  • Engage in activities that bring joy and fulfilment, such as reading, crafting, or playing a musical instrument.
  • Delegate household chores to older children and partners to ease the workload.
  • Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist to manage stress and maintain emotional well-being.

3. Practising excellent time management

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Effective time management is crucial for women, particularly working mothers, who often have demanding schedules and multiple responsibilities. By embracing effective time management techniques, women can become more productive and reduce stress, leading to a better work-life balance and increased happiness and well-being.
Below are some tips and tricks for effective time management:

4. Having financial literacy

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Remember the skill of financial literacy, as this allows one to achieve financial stability and independence. This skill includes understanding budgeting, saving, investing, and managing debt, as well as understanding their rights and entitlements in the workplace.

One aspect of financial literacy that is particularly important for women is salary negotiation. Malaysian women are often paid less than Malaysian men for the same work, and this disparity can significantly impact their long-term financial security.

By negotiating their salaries and taking control of their finances, women can achieve financial stability, help close the gender pay gap, and promote equity in the workplace. Here are some tips for women to negotiate their salaries effectively:

  • Know your worth: Research industry standards and gather data on comparable salaries to understand what you should be earning.
  • Be clear and concise: When negotiating, clearly state your case, provide data to support your request, and be specific about the amount you seek.
  • Be flexible: Be open to compromise and be prepared to find alternative solutions if your initial request is not met.

5. Having communication skills

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Effective communication skills are essential for women to achieve equity in the workplace and in their personal lives. Good communication skills can help promote workplace equity, enabling women to be heard and recognised for their contributions.

More importantly, it helps to build relationships, assert needs and wants, and overcome challenges. Here are some tips for improving communication skills:

  • Listen actively: Pay attention to what others are saying, show empathy, and ask questions to demonstrate interest.
  • Speak clearly and confidently: Use a clear and confident tone of voice, make eye contact, and use appropriate body language.
  • Choose the right words: Use clear, concise language, and avoid using filler words or phrases.
  • Know your audience: Consider the audience you’re speaking to, their background and perspectives, and tailor your communication accordingly.
  • Be open to feedback: Seek feedback from others on your communication skills, and be open to constructive criticism.

6. Prioritise digital literacy

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In today’s rapidly changing world, digital literacy is increasingly important for everyone, especially women. As technology continues to evolve, it’s important for women to keep up with the latest digital tools and trends to remain relevant and competitive in the workplace.

The world is undergoing a new AI revolution, and many industries are rapidly adopting digital tools and automation. As such, digitally literate women will be better equipped to take advantage of these new opportunities and succeed in the digital economy. Also, staying up-to-date with the latest digital tools and trends can help close the gender gap in technology and other digital industries.

7. Having emotional intelligence

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Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise, understand, and manage one’s emotions and those of others. In the workplace, women who have high emotional intelligence are better equipped to navigate complex social situations, communicate effectively with others, and advocate for themselves and their needs.

For example, they are more likely to ask the right questions to ensure that they are being treated fairly, such as:

  • What are the requirements for this job?
  • How are performance evaluations conducted?
  • What is the process for determining salaries and promotions?
  • How is work-life balance addressed?

It’s important to appreciate the benefits of having emotional intelligence. Women can develop emotional intelligence by practising self-awareness, developing empathy, seeking feedback, and managing stress. By improving emotional intelligence, women can become better advocates for themselves and their needs, and promote equity in their personal and professional lives.

8. Practise critical thinking

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Critical thinking is a crucial component of personal and professional success, and can help women to achieve equity in many areas of life. In the workplace, women skilled in critical thinking are better equipped to analyse and understand complex issues. For example, women who are critical thinkers are more likely to:

  • Evaluate job requirements objectively to ensure they are paid fairly for their work.
  • Analyse workplace policies and procedures to identify areas where changes may be needed to promote equity.
  • Think critically about the reasons for gender-based discrimination, and find ways to address these issues.

Women can start by reading widely, engaging in a debate, analysing information objectively, and practising problem-solving to improve critical thinking skills,

9. Practising resilience

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Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and challenges, and to handle difficult situations with grace and determination. It is a critical quality for all women, regardless of whether they are working.

For working women, resilience is crucial in facing their many challenges, such as workplace discrimination, gender bias, and unequal pay. By being resilient, women can overcome these obstacles and work towards achieving equity in their careers.

However, resilience is important for all women, not just those who are working. For example, stay-at-home mothers, caretakers, or students may also face challenges and adversity, and resilience can help them overcome these difficulties and continue to grow and thrive.

To improve resilience, women can start by cultivating a positive mindset, setting realistic goals, surrounding themselves with support, exercising regularly, and caring for themselves. Remember, you’ve got this!

10. Understanding global citizenship

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As women, it’s essential to understand that gender equality is not just a local issue, but a global one. Because women around the world face similar challenges and obstacles, by embracing the concept of global citizenship, women can play a role in helping other women to achieve equity, both in Malaysia and globally. This commitment can include supporting women’s organisations, advocating for women’s rights, and promoting equality and fairness in all aspects of life.

Imbued with the spirit of International Women’s Day, let us work together to ensure that all women have the opportunity to achieve their full potential and to live fulfilling, empowered lives.