How Monash Malaysia is working to empower women

Associate Professor Grace Lee Hooi Yean

Monash University Malaysia was established in 1998 and is Monash University's third largest campus, with 8400 students from approximately 78 different countries. Around 1000 students are studying business.

Associate Professor Grace Lee Hooi Yean has been the Head of Department of Economics since 2016.

"The department research focus is on developmental economics, environmental economics and increasingly on experimental and behavioural economics," says Dr Lee.

Dr Lee works collaborates closely with Professor Erte Xiao (Economics) and Professor Asad Islam, Director of the Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability (CDES). Dr Lee is currently supervising five PhD students, two of which are in co-supervision with Professor Xiao and Professor Islam.

Currently there are eight staff in the department, with plans to recruit three positions at the lecturer, senior lecturer and associate professor level.

Dr Lee is also planning a joint conference with CDES, Monash Malaysia and the World Bank Malaysia, once the travel situation around COVID-19 improves.

Prior to the pandemic a number of students from Malaysia would travel to the Australian campus and Australian business students would visit Monash Malaysia for a semester of unique study experience.

"Some very popular units for the Australian students are 'Asia in the world economy' and 'Business competition and regulation' and we are developing a new unit called 'Economy of the Southeast Asian Economies'," Dr Lee says.

"It is really a goal for us to have more Australian students come to us in the future."

But the impact of COVID-19 has also given rise to new opportunities.

"When everything is online both Malaysian and Australian students can be in the same tutorials and engage through joint group work online. That's very exciting."

A recent major milestone in the department is the signing of a partnership with AIM, the largest microfinance firm in the country, to promote women's equality and empowerment.

"We are really hoping for long term collaboration and we are training female entrepreneurs in e-commerce so they can move their business online," she says.

"A lot of them are in the food and beverage business so we are also encouraging and teaching them to improve their menus and develop new products as the market changes.

"Randomised controlled trials will be carried out to study the effectiveness of the interventions."

This project is part of a larger program of empowering rural women through entrepreneurship in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

An important resource of the faculty is the School of Business Entrepreneurship and innovation hub which will participate in the project along with the department of Economics and the department of banking and finance at Monash Australia.