Women surge into boardrooms across Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR 02 SEPT 2016. From left, Cheif Executive Director Lead Women, Anne Abraham, ICAEW Malaysia Loh Wei Yuen, Group Cheif Marketing Officer Media Prima Shareen Ooi and Head Programmes Talent Corp Siti Aishah Md Lasim at Women in Leadership Malaysia. NSTP/ROHANIS SHUKRI.

Women surge into boardrooms across Malaysia, but gender equity target still beyond reach


KUALA LUMPUR: In a sign of increasing gender equality in the local workplace, latest figures reveal that the representation of women on the boards of Malaysia’s Top 100 corporations has increased to 15 per cent of total directorships this year.


According Anne Abraham, Media Prima Bhd director and founder of LeadWomen Sdn Bhd, this figure is more than double what it was four years ago. But there is still progress to be made.


“While we have seen improvement in gender diversity in boardroom representation, our ultimate target is 30 per cent,” she said.


Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the government had set targets to increase the number of women in key decision-making positions on company boards to 30 per cent and to boost female participation in the workforce to 55 per cent by 2016.


Anne, in responding to the target shortfall, said, “We still have a long way to go, but at the same time, we need to look back and acknowledge the progress we’ve made. We’ll get there.”


She was speaking to the New Straits Times on the sidelines of the Women in Leadership programme held here today.


Anne noted the current workforce is a mix of multiple generations of men and women who are starting to become more open to gender diversity, at all levels.


“We’re seeing more confident women and men sharing household responsibilities, including actively participating in their children’s upbringing. Our society is progressing in the right direction,” she said.


Carried out by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Talent Corp, the Women in Leadership programme equips female professionals with the strategies and skills to navigate, build and lead in a dynamic and ever-changing work environment.


“Over the years, companies have been responding to the government’s call for greater gender diversity on boards. We believe that organisations will appoint more women directors as this would give them an edge in managing their risks and opportunities, and move their companies forward,” Anne said.


On a related matter, ICAEW head of Malaysia operations, Loh Wei Yuen, added that corporations have much to gain in instituting flexi-work arrangements and rehiring women who have left the workforce to start a family.


She noted that there are many women who had temporarily left the corporate world and would like to return, but need to enhance their qualifications in order to re-enter the rat race and get their careers back on track.


“At ICAEW, we provide the tools a woman might want or need in order to get back on their career pathway. Talent is talent, regardless of gender,” Loh said.


The ICAEW is an accountancy professional body which has a global membership of around 142,000. Through the Women in Leadership programme, Loh said the ICAEW provides a platform for women who are just a few steps away from the boardroom to learn from each other’s experiences.


“It is an integration of workshops and peer-to-peer mentoring in preparation for participants to be able to actively contribute to business board level decision-making,” she added.


A strong advocate of meritocracy, Loh, however, put forward that boardroom director appointments should be based on merit, not on a need to simply meet diversity quotas.


Media Prima Bhd group chief marketing officer Shareen Ooi, who is one of the mentors of the Women in Leadership programme, said support among womenfolk is vital in order to realise the need for diverse representation in higher decision-making positions.


“I’ve been a mentor in this programme for two years. I’m honoured to be part of the process in empowering more women in high positions. It is through sharing that we can draw from each other’s’ experiences to better our skills,” Ooi said.


Source:  Ooi Tee Ching, NST