WOU marked International Women’s Day themed ‘Choose to Challenge’ with a virtual get-together to create awareness on gender stereotyping and to encourage equality at home, at work and in society.
The event organised by WOU’S Centre for Foundation Studies (CFS) and Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) today, was attended by 55 people. It was officiated by WOU Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Lily Chan.
Prof Chan said women still do not enjoy a level playing field “because of the prevalent culture and mindset, which must be transformed”. She cited statistics that Malaysia has only 33 women parliamentarians – about 15% – out of the 222 and only 18 of 43 highest positions in the government are filled by women. She called on parents to inculcate a sense of equality in their sons, which will then expand to future generations.
PWDC chief executive officer Ong Bee Leng, in her talk on “Gender Stereotyping”, said that roles, behaviour, activities and characteristics are given by society for women and men. She explained that mental conditioning can occur because of the colour of clothes, the type of toys and story books, and the words a child hears while growing up. She added that gender stereotyping can cause unconscious bias against women, and force upon them the double burden of work and home.
“Let us break the gender stereotype. Give equal opportunities for girls and boys to be what they want to be. Look at their potential, look at their interests,” she suggested. “Children see parents as role models. Whatever parents do, they will amplify and do in future generations. To help them have a more balanced view of things in the future, show them shared responsibilities.”
She highlighted incidences of domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, and sugar daddies, stating they are due to gender stereotyping since men think they are superior and seek to have power over women. She also shared statistics to show the disparity of women’s participation in economy/workforce, politics and ministerial positions.
Ong called for gender equality to empower women to have equal ease of access to resources and opportunities. She stressed, “Take action to break the gender stereotype. Choose to challenge things out there that are not right, and create a gender inclusive environment.”
The event also witnessed four WOU staff sharing their personal stories of succeeding despite challenges, before culminating with a video presentation that depicted six students/graduates who persevered to achieve success in their studies.