While western countries are still struggling to find enough women to work in STEM industries, Malaysia has successfully achieved a gender balance. In this country, women are now found in great numbers in several fields such as engineering, science, math, and computing, where they now make up 61% of the total workforce. 

Malaysia and the Gender Equality Paradox

This is a typical example of the gender equality paradox. According to this theory, women tend to be more engaged in STEM areas in countries that are less gender-equal.

According to data published by the UN, as of February 2021, only 14.9% of seats in the Malaysian Parliament were held by women, and young girls were almost twice more likely to spend 19.1% of their time on unpaid care and domestic work compared to men. In light of this, it may seem paradoxical that Malaysia successfully overcame the gender gap in STEM fields. So, how did this happen?

Role models, women-friendly settings, and lots of encouragement

According to university professors, the special privileges enjoyed by the Malayan population, such as quota for university admission, compared to the Chinese and Indian communities in the country, have pushed women to enter STEM education. As plenty of women achieved success, young Malaysian girls began to consider STEM fields as a desirable career path having plenty of female role models from whom they could draw inspiration.

In addition, unlike in Western European countries, tech fields in Malaysia are not associated with masculinity. Malaysian women are often expected to take care of the family by securing a stable and lucrative career. It is therefore not rare for their fathers to encourage them to major in STEM.