Paving the way for women returnees

Childcare centers are one of the benefits to attract working mothers back into the workforce. Childcare centers are one of the benefits to attract working mothers back into the workforce.

It is common to find that women leave their jobs when they are needed to attend full-time to family matters, and this leads to a decrease in women’s participation in the workplace. However, for Malaysia to reach a high-income nation status by the year 2020, it is vital for companies to tap into this latent women talent pool.

A study by McKinsey and Company entitled Women Matter: An Asian Perspective, estimated that by raising the participation rate of Malaysian women to match those of Singapore or South Korea, it has the potential to increase Malaysia’s gross domestic product by between RM6 billion and RM9 billion.

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the Malaysian female labour force participation rate is currently at 52.4 percent – among the lowest in ASEAN. This has prompted various initiatives from both governmental agencies to private corporations alike to up the rate of women participation in the workforce. Sunway Group is one of these corporations.

Championing women through Sunway Women Talent Project

“Diversity is a good competitive advantage,” says Sunway Group’s Managing Director of Strategy and Corporate Development Sarena Cheah. “Women are a talent pool we can’t ignore. They bring in diverse characteristics and qualities, whether in managerial or leadership positions,” she adds.

Sarena Cheah Sarena Cheah

Sunway Group is a front-runner in championing women in the workforce. In 2013, Sunway Group initiated the Sunway Women Talent Project to address the pressing need for women to obtain work-life integration.

“Within Sunway we have seen an increasing trend of women leaving due to family obligations, especially when they start their family planning. The responsibility or the need to be at home is very strong, hence their decision to leave work,” says Sarena.

“We hope to address the issue, by offering the support system to help retain these women in the organisation and climb the corporate ladder accordingly.”

The Sunway Women Talent Project encompasses several holistic components to provide support for women returning to the workforce after taking a lengthy break off for their families. The components included are:

• Childcare centre - Following the alliance that was forged between R.E.A.L and Sunway Century Sdn Bhd – a subsidiary of the Sunway Group – a childcare centre, called the R.E.A.L Kids preschool centre was set up to benefit working mums within Sunway. Located centrally in Sunway Resort City, the centre is convenient and accessible for working mums to pick up and drop off their young ones.

• Mother’s room – In their effort to provide for women employees who have recently returned from maternity leave, Sunway Group set up a Mother’s Room, fully equipped with comfortable chairs, a refrigerator, sinks, electrical outlets, and cleaning supplies to support mothers who still need to nurse upon their return to the workplace.

The R.E.A.L Kids preschool centre was set up close by Sunway's offices for the convenience of working mothers. The R.E.A.L Kids preschool centre was set up close by Sunway's offices for the convenience of working mothers.

• Extended maternity leave – The group has also implemented an extended maternity leave, adding 30 working days to the statutory 60 working days of maternity leave, with an option to work from home. Sunway Group is the first private, local conglomerate in the country to implement this benefit.

• Flexible working arrangements – FlexTime was introduced by the group, with its initial roll out opened to all working mums. This gave them an option to clock in at either 8:00AM, 8:30AM, or 9:30AM, to complete their core working hours before leaving, thus allowing them the flexibility to juggle their on and off family commitments. Working from home and part time employment are also options for working mums on a case-by-case basis.

• Networking events – The group has also organised several networking events for working mums to meet and mingle with other working mums within the group.

Sunway Group has made it possible for women or mothers who are driven to make a career comeback. They can now easily apply via the group’s dedicated recruitment webpage.

Committed to gender diversity

As an employer, Sunway Group is committed to understanding the needs of career women who have families to care for. Diversity of talent is a key factor for this passion, something that Sunway Group embraces aggressively.

Says Sarena: “Women, especially mothers, who make a comeback to the workforce tend to bring with them a different set of skills, such as greater nurturing skills, longer-term planning, better listening skills, and different styles of conflict management. “These different styles bring in different perspectives, and it is always good to have the experience and contribution that women can bring into the workforce.” While Sunway Group’s working arrangement package might attract and retain women who are looking for a good work-life balance, one might wonder: will these allowances for flexibility affect the growth and career advancement of these working mothers?

Sarena responds: “If the women are able to contribute to what the organisation needs, then they will be remunerated and rewarded accordingly. There is no difference between men and women, really. Ultimately it is about what they want and how they can contribute - we will then play our part as a corporate to enable that.”

To corporations looking to tap into women talent, implementing support systems, clear communication, and understanding the needs of women talent would make a lot of difference in determining the comeback of women into the workforce.

“At Sunway, one of our key advantages is having our own healthcare and education divisions. We are fully committed to community building and sustainability, and could well be a factor that appeals to women,” says Sarena.

To know more about Sunway’s Women Talent Project, head over to .

To find out more about how an organisation can kick-start a career comeback programme, come to Connexion@Nexus, Bangsar South on Mar 2 for the Career Comeback Programme Launch. Register for the event at



Back to work: Women making a career comeback