Women Claiming Top Spots From Hollywood to KL

Women Claiming Top Spots From Hollywood to KL

Excitement is starting to build for Michelle Yeoh’s latest film, The Lady, based on the historic struggle of Burmese pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has recently been released after spending 15 out of the last 21 years under house arrest.

It’s a huge role for Yeoh, her biggest in ages and it could help Malaysia’s best-known woman prove her mettle as a star who can open an international movie to box office bang.

In Hong Kong for the gala premiere, Yeoh called it, “the part of a lifetime” saying playing the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, “made me a better person stepping into her shoes”.

Suu Kyi’s epic choice between helping her country or her family has attracted support from many famous faces such as George Clooney and football star, David Beckham.

Another biopic about a women in power gracing screens this season is: “The Iron Lady”, an intimate look at Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first and only female Prime Minister. Based on the success of that film, and the strong possibility of Meryl Steep winning another Oscar later in the month for her portrayal of Thatcher as a women with dementia – we can expect to see more world leaders immortalized on the big screen.

Women literally have the casting covered from A (Argentina) to nearly Z (Yingluck) – from Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the nation’s first elected woman president and the first president since Eva Peron to Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s first female Prime Minister, who is visiting Malaysia February 20th. These women are ready for their close ups inspiring other women on issues ranging from their fashion choices to their stand on human rights.

Worldwide there are now 20 female heads of state including Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor who holds the fate the European Union in her hands.

Never have more women been at the top and also in supporting roles throughout government. In the United States, Secretary of the State Hillary Clinton is the first former First Lady to serve in a president’s cabinet.

Closer to home, Datuk Seri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, the current governor of Bank Negara Malaysia – Malaysia’s Central Bank – is a highly respected central banker in the eyes of the world. She started at the bank as an analyst and proved herself by learning the bank from the bottom up.

At the United Nations, Datuk Seri Judy Cheng-Hopkins has been praised for transforming the UN Peacebuilding Fun into one of the fastest, most adaptable funds in only two years.

To make sure there are continued opportunities for women, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has shown his commitment to supporting a quota system to raise the number of female Parliament members to 30%.

In the Senate, where most members are appointed rather than elected, women number around 26% compared to the Parliament (10%) and state assemblies (8%). Most importantly, more women were elected to Parliament in 2008 than at any time since Malaysia gained its independence from Britain in 1957.

But it’s not only in politics where women’s voices are being heard. They are claiming their places in the boardroom, as well. According to a 2010 survey, Women on Boards, compiled by the UK stock index, FTSE, women account for 4.2% of directorships in Malaysia. That’s nearly average for our region and more than four times better than South Korea’s 1%.

Helping to encourage more women out of their homes and into the workplace, the Prime Minister’s wife Datuk Seri Rosmah Mansor, has championed the creation of 600 National Child-Care Centres providing for 20,000 children of low-income families, stressing that it’s “essential for working mothers to know their children are safe when they join the labour force”.

Female role models in the public and private sectors awaken a sense of pride in the progress woman have made in the workplace. As Dr. Zeti says, “Women represent half of the world’s population and therefore half the potential.”