5 Malaysian Women at the Top of Their Game on Why We Need More Women Leading

This month Hiredly puts the spotlight on 5 Malaysian women who are killing it in their careers, to share what leadership looks like for them and what they’d tell themselves at the start of their career if they knew what they know now. 

From learning to be a better leader to dealing with discrimination at work, these leaders show that strength and leadership can come in many different forms.

Nurul Idris @ Nai, Architectural Designer and Founder of Studio NAI

Photography by Annatasha

1. Describe your leadership style.

My leadership style is definitely democratic. I won’t necessarily describe myself as a “leader” nor am I a “follower”. What is important for me is working in a team and making sure we get everyone’s point of view and ideas across.   

2. Why do we need more women in leadership roles?

We need more women in leadership roles because women have been discredited and put in the backseat for years. There’s this misconception that women ought to emulate men but that isn’t necessary. It’s fair to say that we just want to be treated equally, especially in the workforce. I personally think that men could learn a lot from women in positions of power.

3. What advice would you give yourself at the start of your career?

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to trust my gut and STAND UP for myself. I’ve personally experienced sexual harassment and gender discrimination at work. Looking back, I wish I had taken action so others who are working at the places I have wouldn’t have to ever go through what I did.

If you or someone you know is facing sexual harassment at work, here’s what you can do according to Malaysian Employment Law.

Nurul Idris is an Architectural Designer and founder of Studio NAI, a creative studio that offers stylish spaces for workshops, events, and photography. Studio NAI has proudly hosted for the likes of Velvet Vanity, Wanderlust + Co, and Liberty Active.

Follow Nurul Idris as she shares her creative pursuits and all things lifestyle on her Instagram.

Lizzie Tan, Co-Founder & CEO at whacked

1. Describe your leadership style.

I like to think of myself as a servant leader. I absolutely love what I do at whacked, and I want others to feel the same way about work. So I do all I can to empower my team.

I treat them as equals, give them opportunities to grow professionally and celebrate their wins. I learned that when I show genuine care towards my team, they get super excited about whacked’s growth. It is about give-and-take at the end of the day.

2. Why do we need more women in leadership roles?

In career, women can lose out in a lot of ways, whether it’s income inequality, limited maternity leaves, or being looked down on for getting pregnant. Many women have to work twice as hard to prove their worth at the workplace and it’s time we change that.

Women in leadership positions can bring different perspectives to the table, especially when it comes to striving towards a better working environment, culture and work-life balance – it’s what’s best for everyone. 

Related: 7 Green Flags That Indicate A Company Has Awesome Work Culture | Why Women Leave Good Careers and Get Paid Less

3. What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your career?

Be open to exploring everything. Take courses. Read self-help books. Speak to industry leaders even if they are 5 to 10 years ahead of you. Network with as many people as you can and start building your personal brand.

All the little experiences WILL add up and they’ll change your mindset forever!

Lizzie Tan is a Digital Marketer and Entrepreneur who uses her background in Psychology to help entrepreneurs and industry leaders build engaging personal brands on LinkedIn. For cleverly-written weekly marketing and entrepreneur insights, follow Lizzie on LinkedIn.

Join the whacked team by applying on Hiredly!

Adibah Omar, CEO at IIUM Entrepreneurship & Consultancies 

1. Describe your leadership style.

I believe in leading by inspiring. To me, it’s not just about completing the marathon. It’s about how many people you can inspire to run with you and complete the marathon together.

2. Why do we need more women in leadership roles?

So that we can be in the position to uplift other women. Some women forget just how strong and smart they are, so they need opportunities to make a difference with the excellent qualities they have. Women in leadership roles can continue to provide these opportunities.

3. What advice would you give yourself at the start of your career?

Always do your best to get it right the first time, no matter how difficult it is. It will make all the difference in the long run!

I’d also tell myself to continue being kind and to empathise with others. A kind and empathetic leader can be hard to come by and people need it very much. People will give their best when they feel understood and appreciated.

Adibah Omar is the CEO at IIUM Entrepreneurship & Consultancies where she leads with a focus on human capital development and women empowerment.

Hailing from the humble hometown of Sungai Petani, Kedah, Adibah uses the supportive environment she grew up in to nurture those she leads and bring out the best in them.

Adibah shares her personal reflections on leadership on her website AdibahOmar.com.

Dashindra Siva, Brand Manager at Signature Market

1. Describe your leadership style.

My leadership style revolves around positivity and encouragement. I always believe that being a leader is about understanding everyone’s role and working together to achieve our goals.

I do my best to check in from time to time to make sure everyone’s doing their best and give guidance to help them grow however I can. 

2. Why do we need more women in leadership roles?

Women are just as capable as men in achieving success in their careers. Having more women in leadership positions can provide different perspectives and approaches. It gives us all the opportunity to solve difficult situations in different and innovative ways that are otherwise left unconsidered. 

3. What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your career?

I’d tell myself not to focus on the things I can’t do, but instead, keep on finding ways to improve myself in other aspects. Be ready to learn new skills and don’t be afraid to seek help. As my dad always says, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

Dashindra is a Brand Manager for Plant Origins at Signature Market, where freedom of speech is crucial in helping her and her teammates’ creativity flourish. When she’s not busy planning for the next exciting campaign, she’s creating fresh beauty and lifestyle content on her Instagram account and YouTube Channel as DaintyDashBeauty.

Join the team at Signature Market on Hiredly!

Yuffie Hani, Head of Nexa Academy

1. Describe your leadership style.

I have worked for many different bosses throughout my career. The ones that I enjoyed working for the most are the ones who gave me room to grow and learn on my own.

My role as a leader is to paint a picture of why reaching a certain goal is important and how we can get there. When your team has a shared purpose and communication is open, trust that they will get the work done. 

2. Why do we need more women in leadership roles?

While men tend to lead with facts and logic, women are great at looking at the bigger picture and considering different factors when making decisions. I personally think we’re amazing at multitasking and have meticulous attention to detail!

But like everything else, balance is key. Having diverse leadership styles is important and will most likely bring better results. 

I think it’s great that the tech industries in Malaysia (including Cybersecurity) are now filled with women in leadership and technical positions as it used to be a field dominated by men.

3. What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your career?

This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but do NOT follow your passion! Instead, follow what you’re good at, even if it’s something you might not be passionate about yet. 

Develop your skills, build meaningful relationships, and be good at what you do. Doors will open much faster for you, and if you’re lucky, you might end up working in something you’re passionate about. If not – hey, that’s what hobbies are for!

Related: Unpopular Opinion: Your Career Isn’t Your Passion – And That’s OK

Yuffie Hani is the Head of Nexa Academy, the Training & Development arm of Nexagate, Asia’s Trusted Cybersecurity Provider. Offering industry-led cybersecurity training and managed security awareness, Nexa Academy believes that people play an integral role as the first line of defence to safeguard their organisations and provide better security for everyone.

This International Women’s Day, we’d like to welcome everyone to reflect, learn from and celebrate the women around us. As we continue to strive for equality in the workplace, it’s important that we keep inclusivity in mind with every major decision we make.

For more on women’s experiences in the workplace, we spoke to the women in our team at Hiredly on how to better navigate and advocate for equality at work.