Malaysian Women Working In The Fields of Engineering and Technology
SWE drew global attention in recent years when it held its first Asian regional event in Malaysia. Malaysia is now the fourth largest SWE membership country, which has increased demand for the Society’s programs and services.
According to a UNESCO report, Malaysia is one of the few countries where women in technology have achieved parity in terms of representation among researchers and engineers (UNESCO, 2017). Indeed, according to Malaysia’s Department of Statistics’ most current Statistics on Women Empowerment in Selected Domains (2017), women account for over 37% of students enrolled in engineering, manufacturing, and construction professions in higher education in 2016. Their presence is much greater among students enrolled in engineering, manufacturing, and construction programs at public universities, where they account for over 46% of engineering, manufacturing, and construction students (see Figure 1). Furthermore, women make up 29 percent of registered graduate engineers, or those with engineering degrees, compared to 22 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees in engineering in the United States (NSF, 2021). This is remarkable given that just 6.3 percent of Malaysian adolescent females surveyed in the 2018 PISA survey said that they wanted to pursue a career in science or engineering, compared to 7.1 percent of girls from OECD nations.
This image, however, does not always translate to engineering professionals. According to the Board of Engineers Malaysia’s most recent annual reports, women are significantly underrepresented among professional engineers and professional engineers with practicing certificates (see Figure 2). In 2019, for example, women accounted for around 7% of professional engineers with practicing certifications, which is the highest professional degree attained by engineers in Malaysia. It’s probable that these lower percentages of representation are related to similar prejudices that portray engineering as male in Western countries, which discourage women from pursuing careers in engineering.
According to a Stanford article, gender roles in technology are different in Malaysia than in other nations, such as the United States. For example, because professional computing occupations are more likely to occur indoors than employment that occurs outside, they are regarded to be more feminine jobs, allowing women to participate in computing industries without being stigmatized. However, there is insufficient current data on Malaysian women’s participation in computing and technological disciplines to confirm whether women’s representation in these fields is better than in engineering.