Empowering women in the workplace is crucial for fostering equality, diversity, and organisational success. While organisations have an essential role in shaping this environment, women can also take proactive steps to contribute to this transformation.
A recent dialogue session hosted by RYTHM Foundation – “Shaping an Environment That Empowers Women” – discussed how women can take these personal initiatives to shape a supportive workplace that values their contributions and fosters their growth.
Moderated by RYTHM Chairperson Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran, the panel featured three remarkable Malaysian women in corporate leadership: Serene Chaw, Global Programme Director at Catalyst Coach; Natasha Zulkifli, Founder and Director of Women in Rail Malaysia and Women in Rail Connect; and Madiha (Maddy) Fuad, Founder and CEO of PlusVibes.
The talk was a delightful blend of professionalism, humour, and insightful anecdotes. Each panellist brought distinct perspectives, expertise, and experiences, reminding us that meaningful discussions need not be dry or devoid of levity.
A Call for Inclusion and Growth
Datin Sri Umayal started the session by asserting that women represent an equal and indispensable half of our society and possess an immense wellspring of untapped potential.
“We have everything to contribute to society. More women are in leadership positions globally. But the question is, is that enough?” she posed.
Serene raised the challenges women in the “sandwich generation” face, an extraordinary situation for many in their 30s and early 40s managing care for their elderly parents, children, or both and their careers.
“This is when their careers are on the rise, but they are compelled to step back,” Serene noted. This is why promoting leadership at this level is as important as how we encourage it because of these women’s predicaments.”
Drawing from her role in the male-dominated construction industry, Natasha stressed the significance of leaders creating safe spaces for employees.
“Seniority or age doesn’t automatically make you a good leader. Instead, intelligence, initiative, and continuous learning are crucial,” Natasha said. I’m conscious that as a leader, I must create a safe space for people. Remember to be a conscious leader as you move up that chain.”
Maddy’s invaluable insights on leadership from a mental health perspective underlined the significance of organisations fostering a supportive system.
“Embrace the opportunity to openly share your professional challenges,” Maddy advised women facing work stresses. “You have to know that everyone goes through challenges. So, the answer is yes if you are wondering whether you should seek support. Confide in those who will uplift and inspire; they will propel you forward on your journey.”
Running Your Own Race
The discussion delved deeper than creating space and achieving equality in organisations. It also beckoned the audience to embark on a journey of self-discovery and professional fulfilment.
“If it (the drive) is not from within you, then nothing will happen,” Datin Sri Umayal noted, adding that the panellists exemplified this mindset by continuously pursuing their dreams toward success.
Serene chipped in, “Women have the resilience, adaptability, and agility to be part of the equation. However, there aren’t enough of us out there. We may be in mid-level and senior management but not in senior leadership teams or boards.”
Natasha’s key message centred on staying focused on personal growth and professional excellence without being affected by the progress or success of others. “We run our own race. So, don’t look left or right but ahead and do your best.”
Maddy highlighted the importance of having a clear strategy and vision for personal growth and success. “Have a plan that you know you can achieve. For example, it could be about improving your education, upskilling yourself, or attending networking events,” she explained.
With renewed purpose and determination, the session motivated the audience to take proactive steps to foster greater personal and professional success, equality, and inclusivity.