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Inclusion is Innovation: How Malaysians are breaking barriers to drive an inclusive future

About 18 months ago, Microsoft launched Code; Without Barriers, the first program in Asia Pacific that brings together developers, industries, businesses, tech communities, and allies to break barriers in the growing tech sector. The program also aims to empower more developers, coders, and other technical talents to contribute to the growing digital economy, because inclusive economic growth can only be achieved with the full participation of both women and men.

In bringing this to life, we have collaborated with various talented women from our ecosystem and had the privilege of learning from their experiences. Through their unique perspectives and inspiring stories, they demonstrate how inclusion drives innovation, and how it can deliver positive impact.

Nurturing future-ready talent with UTHM

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM), through its Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology introduced the Akademi Intelek and Data Analitik with the goal of providing candidates with digital upskilling courses and a globally recognized certification that validates their digital competencies (Check out what some of the students have to say about AI.DA here).

Speaking to Dr. Aida Mustapha, Director, Industry Community Relations Center at UTHM, we learned that among the focus for educators today is to prepare a Generation Z workforce. “They (Gen Z) are digitally literate and spend more time on electronic devices as compared to books,” said Dr. Aida.

“Equipping them with digital skills fits their unique generational trait as they are more robust and open to change. By collaborating with Microsoft, we get to provide our students with access to digital skilling opportunities and exposure to the latest technologies.” – Dr. Aida Mustapha 

Dr. Khuneswari Gopal Pillay, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology at UTHM and a colleague of Dr. Aida, also shared, “Technological advances are revolutionizing the way we work and live today. While digitalization has brought enormous socio-economic benefits, it also poses many challenges, one of which is the disruption in the job market.”

“To overcome this, gender equality is essential in the context of today’s job market. To quote Desmond Tutu, if we are going to see real development in the world then our best investment is women!– Dr. Khuneswari Gopal Pillay

Dr. Khuneswari, also expressed concerns about the gender disparity that persists in the workforce and strives to eradicate it. She envisions a future where women have equal opportunities and is a proponent of equipping and empowering them to venture into STEM fields. This approach will foster more inclusive innovations, and pave the way for a more diverse future, where women have equal representation and participation.

“In March 2022, we conducted a Microsoft professional certification training for female students under the Code; Without Barriers program and over 100 female students obtained a Microsoft certification for Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals, Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals and Microsoft Azure Fundamentals. These credentials will be invaluable, and the skills gained will ensure that they are fully prepared to take on and thrive in the growing digital economy.”

Both Dr. Khuneswari and Dr. Aida are strong advocates for women in STEM and have been successful in their push toward empowering women via AI.DA. But as educators, they know the importance of being impartial when it comes to educating their students, and thus their objective is to ensure that all their students can compete on a level playing field once they enter the workforce.

Beyond universities, businesses in Malaysia are also looking at how they can empower women to achieve more in the workplace. One such organization is PETRONAS, which has established a strong foundation for developing talent both internally and externally, through a series of collaborations with Microsoft, including the Code; Without Barriers program.

PETRONAS: Delivering Malaysia’s digital vision

PETRONAS is dedicated to fostering the development of Malaysian talent and one of its initiatives, “Unleash Your Data Prowess Challenge” under the Code; Without Barriers program was successfully conducted with close to 400 participations of PETRONAS female staffs.

“There is an under representation of skilled talent particularly among women, so when we heard about Code; Without Barriers, we immediately said yes to participate!” said Datin Ts. Habsah binti Nordin, Chief Data Officer as well as a Champion and Sponsor for Microsoft’s Code; Without Barriers at PETRONAS.

“What we want to do is expand exposure to the world of Data and AI and have more women understand this field and the possibilities when you are equipped with digital skills. This is not limited to employment opportunities but also putting innovation into actions. It is about nurturing the passion to pursue your goals through continuous learning.”
– Datin Ts. Habsah binti Nordin

As a holder of multiple Microsoft Certifications herself, Raihan Anuar, ACA Finance Executive, Project Delivery & Technology at PETRONAS shared, “When it comes to skilling, people think that it’s only a nice-to-have.”

“But if you think about it from a long-term perspective, and with how technology is advancing, adopting digital technology can help do so much more in less time, therefore making us more productive. That made me realize that I need to keep up with the pace of digitalization, so I signed up for skilling with Microsoft and earned my Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification.” – Raihan Anuar

Today, Raihan is also a holder of the Azure Data Fundamentals and Power Platform App Maker Associate certifications.

“When Code; Without Barriers was introduced more than a year ago, the goal was to help close the gender gap across Asia Pacific’s growing technology sector. To help drive this initiative forward, we work with organizations from different industries, like PETRONAS and UTHM, to deliver digital skills training and certifications to more women,” said Datin Lim Bee Wah, Code; Without Barriers Lead for Malaysia and General Manager of Microsoft Malaysia’s Small, Medium, and Corporate (SMC) Group. 

“To date, we have trained more than 1,500 women and certified over 400 of them in Malaysia. In the coming year, we look forward to bringing onboard more female talents to explore opportunities in the fast-growing cloud and AI sectors.”
– Datin Lim Bee Wah


  • Learn more about Code; Without Barriers here.
  • You can also browse our upskilling programs available on Microsoft Learn.