Guidelines for the Good Female Boss

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mariam mokhtarby Mariam Mokhtar

The Information Department’s guideline, “Ways to make a good female boss” which was posted on its Facebook page in September and also appeared in a Ministry of Health online video and MedikTV’s Facebook page, last March, courted so much controversy, that it had to be removed from the two sites.

Members of the public have been angered by the sexist and discriminatory comments directed at women in the workplace. Before the guideline vanished from cyberspace, an online newspaper managed to publish the various captions which had appeared in it.

One described working women as posing a danger to any organisation because subordinates could feel “pressured, bored or disgusted” by talkative and nagging women. The website also described the presence of “rigid problems” which were faced by employees with a female boss.

The Information Department tried to distance itself from its patronizing guide by saying that not all women fit into their stereotypical image of the “female boss” but that “…because of a drop of blue dye, a whole pot of milk can be contaminated…”

The eight methods designed to turn women into good female bosses, had originally been posted in Malay. They are:

To stay relaxed and calm in all situations including normal and tense ones

To have frequent discussions with junior staff, especially the male workers

To refrain from showing their ego and power in the presence of their subordinates, especially when issuing instructions

To stop being too fierce and firm

To be able to win the hearts of your junior employees

To create a calming and cheerful atmosphere whilst issuing instructions to subordinates

To empower subordinates to enable them to perform their tasks

To stop making subordinates angry by having too much control over them.

The guidelines fail to appreciate that most of the ‘tips’ would apply to any boss, not just a female boss.

The comments in the guideline, which are directed at women bosses, are derogatory, sexist and insulting. To describe a woman as talkative and a nag is outrageous.

Only a man could have come up with this stereotypical, untrue and baseless set of guidelines. So was the person who produced the guidelines describing his personal home life or his view of his own workplace? Had he been overlooked for promotion and seen the position he was eyeing go to a woman? At times, some insecure men can get very emotional and vindictive, like a woman scorned.

It is well established that women are good and hard workers. Girls outperform many boys at school. They also tend to help more at home by assisting with the chores before knuckling down to their homework.

More women are believed to read professional and challenging courses at university, like engineering, the sciences, medicine and architecture, than men, who tend to take the easier option of doing ‘soft courses’, like religious study.

Last March, the Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Heng Seai Kie, praised women for their hard work and achievements, but regretted that they only made up 46.1 per cent of the workforce.

Heng also commented on the low percentage of women in decision making positions, especially in the private sector and said that the government would step up their efforts to increase the participation of women in such roles.

Despite the grand talk and big aims of the government, only one minister in the cabinet, is a woman. So how can the government increase the participation of women, when it does not practise what it preaches? Why are men authorised to make bigoted and sexist guidelines for its female workforce? If this trend of degrading women in employment continues, the government’s aim of women comprising 55 per cent of the workforce, within three years, will never materialise.

The problem probably lies in some of the men who dictate policy, and especially those who firmly believe that a women’s place is in the home, behind the kitchen sink. Some men do not like to be led by a woman. Others have a problem with taking orders from women and will attempt to undermine the female boss, find fault with what she does, force her out with sexist comments and in general, make it unpleasant for the female workers.

Ever since education was given to all women at the beginning of the last century, today’s Malaysian women have overcome several obstacles to achieve what their grandmothers could only dream of.

Perhaps, instead of tips on “How to make a good female boss”, a set of guidelines should be made which tells the insecure men “How to make a good male subordinate.”