Women entrepreneurs on gender equality: progress still limited

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Founder of BenchLab, Wan Nurul Naszeera speaking during the Brunei Womenpreneur Network (BWN) event celebrating Women’s Equality Day at t-Lounge by Dilmah on 25/08/18. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Azrina Zin

The continuing growth of female entrepreneurship is a testament to the willpower and determination of women, who often have to overcome obstacles in order to move forward in the male-dominated industry.

But while the majority of graduates in Brunei are females and that more women are taking up senior roles in the corporate world, women are still lagging behind when it comes to promotion in leadership roles.

“The progress is slow and the ‘glass ceiling’ remains intact,” said Noorhafizah Rashid, the founder of the Brunei Womenpreneur Network (BWN) in her address to commemorate Women’s Equality Day last weekend.

“Men and women must recognise the unconscious bias that keep women out of the role of position of power and decision making,” she added.

Attendees during the Brunei Womenpreneur Network (BWN) event celebrating Women’s Equality Day at t-Lounge by Dilmah on 25/08/18. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

At the BWN panel discussion held at the T-Lounge by Dilmah in Batu Bersurat, women who were mostly business owners operating in several male-dominated industrial sectors shared their stories and discussed their views on gender equality.

One of the key highlights during the session was on how women find themselves under-represented at senior levels and as decision-makers within an organisation – not just in terms of employment, but also when it comes to do business.

Adding to these barriers, women are often faced with stigma in a male-dominated workplace that does not want to acknowledge their leadership role. Supna Rania Karwanamurthi, Managing Director of FLUX O S had this experience early in her career.

One of the key ways to address these challenges, the panel discussed, is recognising that men and women must be equal partners in achieving gender equality.

“With men still dominating most leadership positions, their view and attitude towards gender equality have a significant impact on workplace culture,” Supna said.

Change in workplace culture key to gender equality

Supna feels that female representation in all-fields play an important role and will ensure a more diverse view in the workplace.

“By equipping and mentoring more senior female talent, it will help encourage other women up the ladder and make them more visible,” said the entrepreneur.

Another area of focus is implementing comprehensive a gender equality education at home.

“Role-modelling starts from home,” said Sharimawati Hj Sharbini, Founder of Ash Health & Fitness.

“So while we fight for gender equality on a broader scale, we can start with micro changes in our own home,” she added.

Sharimawati emphasised that inequality stem from a very young age.

“We have to teach our children that we’re all entitled to be equal and to encourage them to strive for a healthy and equal relationship.”

Launched in March in conjunction with this year’s International Women’s Day, BWN invites attendees and panelists to analyse advancements and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.

Noorhafizah said the organisation aims to be a monthly event due to the positive reception it received.

“Discussions like these gives people the opportunity to hear different perspectives from local women entrepreneurs ,as well as a platform to connect and voice out their opinion.

“That is what BWN strives to achieve,” she said.

Wina Hafizah Haji Sallehudin from Department of Electrical Services speaking during the Brunei Womenpreneur Network (BWN) event celebrating Women’s Equality Day at t-Lounge by Dilmah. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Other panellists at the event were Pg Dr Noor Afizan PHA Rahman, Consultant Ophthalmologist, and Aiminorhiza Ramlee, Co-founder of Tyne Solution, as well as sharing sessions by BenchLab founder Wan Nurul Naszeerah, and BWN member Wina Hafizah Hj Sallehuddin.

BWN will be hosting another event on September 17, themed “Business Woman Day”.

For more information and updates regarding the event, you can reach them at 8921498 or 8164266 or follow them on instagram @bwnwomenpreneurnetwork or @bigbwnproject .

The Bruneian