World café for women hits high note

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BANDAR SUNWAY: World Café for Women@MonashMalaysia themed ‘Time is NOW – Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives’ was held on 8 March 2018 in celebration of International Women’s Day 2018 (IWD 2018) with support from our campus Working Women Committee, President & Pro Vice-Chancellor and Professors Advisory Group.

President and Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Walker was ecstatic to have played a role in organising the event: “The role of women in our societies and women supporting women are crucial issues that we can conduct research on, from so many different
directions. It’s core business for a University to be working on this sort of issue.

“But beyond that, what I like particularly about today is that this is an event that has been organised by professional and academic colleagues in the University. In my experience, really great things happen when you get this rich collaborations that crosses artificial
boundaries and I’m absolutely delighted to see people here involved in organising events together regardless of their positions in the University. I really want to encourage and develop more of that.”

The women present were encouraged to give their take on three challenging themes: Empowerment of Women at Monash Malaysia; Hearing Women’s voices in the media; Transforming underprivileged Women.

Professor Maude Phipps, who cochaired the event with Associate Professor Lakshmi Selvaratnam, hoped that the event would serve as a catalyst for further activities: “We want to hear your voices, whether you are an academic or professional staff, to help propel the Gender Equity Initiative in our local community and at our workplace”.

When asked what are some of the strategies to enable more young women to forge a successful career in a STEMM field, Maude stated that there are substantially more men than women in population genetics and STEMM in general.

“I think that even in very conservative societies where respect for women and their rights are rare, situations are changing as more women act and speak up.

“In my field, there are erroneous perceptions, often unsubstantiated that fieldwork may be unsuitable and dangerous for women. Respect for women, adequate education and training, implementing good safety procedures and planning trips meticulously are essential.

“We need to debunk stereotypes, dispense with the ‘femme fatale’, engage men in discussion, etc. Policies at institutional and governmental levels need to be established for equal opportunity. At the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, I’m fortunate to be in the fine company of Med Hatters, our ladies support group. Many an idea has been hatched, a soul comforted, a thesis/paper reviewed, an event organised and benefit had from our coffee, tea, cake chats and little excursions,” Phipps enthused.