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WOMEN are becoming important drivers of economic growth in this century with about half of the businesses owned by women, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor said.


WOMEN are becoming important drivers of economic growth in this century with about half of the businesses owned by women, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor said.


She said women are making waves in many areas of society, having filled many of the worlds top corporate management roles and leadership positions in government, civil society and politics.


"Worldwide, women now constitute 22 per cent of corporate executives at top management and form one-third of all people involved in entrepreneurial activity," Rosmah, wife of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said in her pre-recorded opening address at Women In Leadership (WIL) Forum Asia in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.


Rosmah, who is the patron of the WIL forum, said women now have a greater role in shaping the world’s future, especially when they use their influence, creativity and innovation ingeniously and effectively to inspire changes.


She said as women are more sensitive to the needs of family and society, they take a holistic approach to life that balances work, family and society needs.


This strength, she added, must be enhanced so that the well-being of people will be the anchor for development in any society.


"For women to undertake this role effectively, they should always be aware of the existing emerging forces of change such as technology, communications. values, consumer behaviour and economic resources." Rosmah spoke at length on how women can use the power of influence for meaningful transformation if they are knowledgeable and skillful, able to to quickly respond to societal needs, build networks and committed to creating a better world.


She cited former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the US former first lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt as influential women who have successfully influenced, innovated and inspired societies to make significant change.


According to Rosmah, education is the most important enabler for influence because with knowledge and skills, women are better equipped to design policies, introduce initiatives and pioneer innovations.


She said in many societies, access to education for girls and women is still limited.


She called for the expansion of access to education and improvement in the quality of education from early childhood.


Later, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Senator Heng Seal Kie, who represented Rosmah at the launch of the forum, presented WIL Asia Awards to prominent Asian women in various fields.


KPJ Healthcare Bhd managing director Datin Paduka Siti Saadiah Sheikh Bakir was named Asia’s leading Women CEO of the Year, ING Insurance Bhd president and CEO Datuk Dr Nirmala Menon received Asia’s Leading Woman in Finance and Investment Award, while Astro CEO Datuk Rohana Rozhan was named Asia’s Leading Woman in Media.


The Andaman Langkawi general manager Anne Scott received Asia’s leading Woman in Hospitality Award, Singapore based Tata Consultancy Services Asia Pacific Pte Ltd was Asia’s Most Women-Friendly Employer, while China-based Haier Group president Yang Mianmian was recognised as Asia’s Most Innovative Woman Entrepreneur.


Bangladesh Women Entrepreneurs Association president Nasreen Fatema Awal was named Asia’s Leading Woman in Public Sector, while Asia’s Leading Woman in Healthcare Award went to Australia’s RMIT University’s College of Science Engineering and Health executive director Dr Elaine Saunders.