Strengthening women's leadership in education

[27-29 June, 2018]

About 40 participants from some 20 Commonwealth nations attended a 3-day women’s leadership training organised by WOU in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Canada.

 Participants and speakers of the workshop.

Participants and speakers of the workshop.

The Pan-Commonwealth Training Programme on “Women and Leadership in ODL” in George Town, Penang from June 27th to 29th was attended by women in such positions as Pro-Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Deputy Director, Dean, Lecturer, and Head of Department from various open universities and colleges/institutes.

The countries represented were Malaysia, Tonga, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Kenya, Mauritius, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Guyana, Antigua, India and Sri Lanka.

 The training programmme facilitator, Dr Balasubramanian.

The training programmme facilitator, Dr Balasubramanian.

COL Vice President Dr K Balasubramanian, who facilitated the training, said that COL seeks to strengthen women’s leadership in the education sector through the workshop.

WOU Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas presented on ‘Identifying the Leader Within’ in which she recounted her personal leadership journey through more than 30 years in education.

 Prof Zoraini shares her experiences and what led her to where she is now.

Prof Zoraini shares her experiences and what led her to where she is now.

She credited four role models for formulating her thinking, vision and passion. The columnists S H Tan with “Sweet Young Things” and Sri Delima with “As I Was Passing” fanned her desire to be a columnist, and she did this over 10 years of writing for three different newspapers, promoting computer literacy and the benefits of the Internet. Two female professors opened her eyes to academia, she added.

She spoke about having 5-year goals to rise from lecturer to Associate Professor and eventually, to Professor, stressing that focus, goal, confidence and passion directed her path. “The leader within is about focusing on your own personal desires and aspirations. That is why I gave the story of my own journey.”

 Prof Zoraini elaborates on a few leadership traits.

Prof Zoraini elaborates on a few leadership traits.

She next listed the six (6) winning leadership traits as passion, goal, confidence, a team concept, communication, and determination. She said leaders should know how important it is to listen to others and consider all factors before making a decision, and be true to their morals and values, while putting aside any ego. She concluded: “The learner within is equally important. Find your passion, your vision, before you lead others.”

Vice President of Dell Penang, Corina Tan, in speaking on ‘Empowerment through Technology” shared about her personal path to corporate success after starting work as a clerk  at age 21 and putting herself through college. She joined Dell 18 years ago as a senior manager.

 Tan speaks about her life journey and the lessons learnt.

Tan speaks about her life journey and the lessons learnt.

She encouraged the use of technology as an empowering tool to grow themselves and their company, since technology offers the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime, and encourages collaboration of work. She mentioned using mobile learning and gamification to attract youngsters to learning.

Tan said she plans for everything and is currently finishing her MBA to potentially do consulting after retirement. She added, “Our mentors and friends will encourage us but you are the one who is going to make the change, so plan for it.”

She highlighted three (3) critical factors for success: mindset shifts, where you are willing to learn and take steps to learn: building key skills; and networking to accomplish tasks.

 Tan lists 3 critical factors for success.

Tan lists 3 critical factors for success.

 The workshop also carried talks on student engagement, the challenges for women leaders, the art of negotiation, learning via social media, and decision-making through use of data analytics. 

Participants were very pleased that they were selected to attend the workshop, adding that the workshop had provided new thoughts and ideas.  Most participants, when prompted had shared their decisions on what they will do immediately after the workshop.  They reiterated that they had learned so much about leadership from the women leaders who presented at the workshop.

 Participants attending the workshop.

Participants attending the workshop.