Malaysia has a local female labour participation rate of 54.1%, however, more than half of the women in Malaysian women still feel under-represented in leadership positions.

According to Robert Walters' latest whitepaper which gathered the views of over 4,400 respondents across 10 APAC markets including Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, 58% of women in malaysia felt under-represented in leadership roles.

However, 49% the nation's men were of a different opinion - they felt that women have sufficient standing in business leading roles.

This echoed the views of men and women in the APAC region where 80% of women and 59% of men felt that women were under-represented in leadership positions in businesses.

To make things worse, almost half of females in Malaysia (48%) do not think their current employer has clear and enforced policies on gender diversity, equality and inclusion.

Digging deeper, the survey found that one of the reasons in which women are under-represented in leadership roles might be due to family pressures or commitments outside of work.

When asked to name the top three reasons why women are under-represented, 29% of all respondents in Malaysia cited family pressures or commitments outside of work.

Additionally, 27% attributed it to a workplace culture that does not actively foster diversity, inclusion and equality, and 24% believed it is due to a preference by management to promote men over women

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On the brighter side, 39% of the respondents in Malaysia agreed that women made up more than 20% of leadership positions in their organisations. Earlier this year, Malaysia's  Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, pointed out that women in the country now hold 26.3% of top management positions.

Even so, 55% believed that there are strong female leaders within their organisations that they can look up to as role models.

Additionally, the survey found that one of the key drivers to facilitating women in their career is the presence of a mentor or sponsor at the senior management level as pointed out by 66% of women in Malaysia and 71% of women in APAC.

Sally Raj, managing director of Robert Walters Malaysia, commented: "Inclusiveness in any workplace is much needed to create a dynamic atmosphere conducive for talent development and engagement. Fresh ideas are constantly required to meet market demands that are constantly evolving, help with problem solving and strategic planning. To realise the full potential of an organisation, business leaders have to first recognise the benefits of a diverse management team. "

READ MORE: The industries with the most women bosses in Malaysia

In line with the survey findings, Robert Walters has identified six key recommendations for organisations to encourage gender diversity and increase employee satisfaction levels.

1. Identify the motivational factors that drive employees early in the recruitment process

2. Harness the strengths of diverse teams

3. Consider flexible working options for both parents

4. Mentoring can aid women in their career development

5. Encourage women to showcase leadership by giving them high-visibility initiatives

6. Start gender diversity from the top

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