There is a brain drain in the working field as more women are quitting their jobs due to the call of motherhood. According to an article by The Star Online, despite women making up 70% of Malaysia’s university graduates, they only make up 53.6% of the entire national labor force.
Due to societal and even personal pressure, women have always faced challenges in issues of identity and responsibility. Society likes to put mothers in one box and working ladies in another box. The two labels have never been viewed in the same light yet both should and can be paired in incredible ways. No woman should ever be made to feel guilty whenever she is at the crossroads between motherhood or career.
Here are some examples of extraordinary women that have proven that they don’t choose between a job or a family. Instead, they cherish the best of both worlds.
(1) Tun Siti Hasmah
A medical doctor by profession, a mother of 7 successful children, a grandmother and also a great grandmother, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah binti Haji Mohamad Ali’s days are filled with endless noble duties. At the golden age of 93, Siti Hasmah is our beloved Prime Minister’s wife and a strong advocate of many health issues like active lifestyle, immunisation, mental health and public hygiene. For Malaysia’s First Lady, she believes mothers should look after their children well with love and care as they are God’s blessings. Women should also be taking care of themselves as they are the key to their families’ wellbeing. Her advice includes for women to go for annual medical checkups like doing the mammogram and cervical screenings.
With 7 children in tow, discipline was the way to go for this Klang-born Malaysian first lady. The Siti Hasmah-Mahathir duo’s approach to parenting is to instill the values of responsibility, respect, and honesty in their kids. Some of their more known children are Marina Mahathir (62 years old), a sociopolitical activist and writer, Mokhzani Mahathir (58 years old), a businessman and Mukhriz Mahathir (54 years old), the Chief Minister of Kedah.
Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah’s evergreen message to mommies out there is,
“Take care of your babies, take care of yourself”.
(2) Vivy Yusof
At the age of 31 years old, Vivy Yusof is the Group Chief Creative Officer of FashionValet (FV) and the dUck Group, the 2018 Women Empowerment Year icon and a fellow momtrepreneur. A law graduate from the London School of Economics (LSE), Vivy and her husband are committed in building and helping local brands to thrive in the fashion industry both locally and globally. Vivy has her own fanbase with more than 1.6 million followers on Instagram probably due to her quirky social media captions and daily outfit-of-the-day photos. She makes juggling between her 3 young kids – Daniel Azim Shah (5 years old), Mariam Iman Shah (3 years old) and Sarah Ilham Shah (7 months) – and running an e-commerce fashion company with 200 staff such a breeze. Quoting from one of her articles in New Straits Times (NST), Vivy mentioned:
“I want to be the kind of mum who shows her kids that we have to work hard to get what we want. The kind of mum who teaches her kids to face future challenges on their own. The mum who teaches them to appreciate their education, respect their careers and honour their dreams. Most importantly, I want to be the kind of mum who walks the talk.”
(3) Mazlan Othman
As our country’s first astrophysicist, Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman has sparked Malaysia’s interest in space exploration through building public understanding of astronomy and creating an astrophysics curriculum for public universities. Despite some discouragement in her early working days as a lecturer, Dr. Mazlan continued to pursue her passion and has now served a few roles after switching career paths from being an academician to the public service. She served as the Director General of ANGKASA (Malaysia’s National Space Agency), a two-time director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in Vienna and a senior fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia. One of her greatest feats would be in 2007 when Tun Mahathir called her back home from Vienna to plan the launch of Malaysia’s first astronaut through the National Angkasawan (Astronaut) Programme with the Ministry of Defense.
Blessed with two children and two grandkids, Dr. Mazlan had her own fair share of challenges in balancing between her work life and family life, especially during the early days when her children were still young. Her work required her to travel a lot and work odd hours as observations could only be done at night and sometimes on mountains or high places.
Dr. Mazlan is currently retired and residing in Vienna with her youngest daughter.
(4) Pauline Ho
A proud mom of two boys and a girl, Pauline Ho is the People Partner for PwC Malaysia. Before this, she was the first woman Assurance leader and partner for PwC Malaysia. With 20 years of valuable experience, Pauline has an outstanding portfolio in managing business advisory and assurance assignments locally and also in the United Kingdom (UK).
Despite dedicating most of her energy to work, she maintains a healthy relationship with her spouse and children by prioritising family-time, going on vacations together or being there for her events that are participated by her children. According to Pauline, her eight-year-olds triplets are her toughest clients yet as they are very smart and observant. Pauline admits that it is hard being a working mom but that just motivates her further to become a better version of herself both personally and professionally. She believes that the notion of having children has no link to a woman’s commitment to her job.
(5) Sharala Axryd
When she was young, she wanted more than just securing a job, being married and having children. Today, Sharala Axryd is a leading lady in the sphere of data science and CEO of The Center of Applied Data Science (CADS). CADS’ establishment is to create economic opportunities through innovations. Dubbed by the Morgan Philips Group as one of the top female online entrepreneurs, Sharala’s expertise in a broad area of topics like women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and analytics makes her a highly sought-after subject matter expert.
With many years of experience under her belt, she was involved in bringing home The Data Incubator (an American-based data science centre), supporting Malaysia’s vision to be a Big Data Analytics’ hub and spearheaded the pioneering data science accelerator programme 3 years ago. Recently, CADS -under Sharala’s wing – has also launched Data For Her, a unique initiative that encourages women’s participation in programming and data science. The aim is to encourage inclusivity and equality in technology as the industry offers abundant opportunities for both men and women.
Ultimately, Sharala is also a wife and mother. She continues to learn from her children. In one incident, her son taught her a lesson on integrity. This is why she keeps in mind to always do the right thing even when no one is looking.
(6) Angelina Villanueva
The demanding nature of marketing is filled with long hours in the office combined with meetings right after making many people quit the round the clock working hours. For working mothers, the job gets more challenging. As an industry leader in Malaysia and Singapore, Angelina Villanueva has held the reins of both the client and agency side of advertising when she worked with Ogilvy and The Star Media Group. She is indeed an epitome of character, charisma, and care. Be it in the office or home, this current Chief Marketing Officer of KFC Malaysia believes that work-life balance is easily achieved.
According to her,
“It’s not exactly 50-50. Sometimes 90-10 and other times 10-90. It’s about ensuring you have a balance in life, both work and pleasure, whether you are a mother or not”
Navigating both motherhood and occupation can be challenging at times yet Angelina proves that when there is a will, there is a way.
P.s.: To all mommies and mother-figures out there, Happy Mother’s Day!