The 30% Club movement, which began in the UK to induct women leaders into the upper echelons of corporate service, has reached our shores.
At a high-powered session held on May 8, 2015, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak launched the Malaysian chapter of the 30% Club before an enthused crowd of the “who’s who” of corporate Malaysia.
“It is essential that we harness the talent and energy of women in Malaysia, as equal partners in building a high-income, high productivity economy with the right fundamentals for sustainable growth,” Najib said, addressing an audience of chairpersons and chief executive officers from listed companies and multinational corporations.
The 30% Club is a movement that champions diversity in the workplace, and seeks to break the glass ceiling for women in the top management and board levels.
As Najib pointed out, the vision he had outlined nearly five years ago – for three in 10 decision-making positions to be held by women by 2016 – is progressing well.
During last year’s budget, it was announced that RM2.3bil would be pumped into programmes to improve access to the job market for Malaysian women. Today, the improvement in our female labour force participation (FLPR) has risen to more than half: 53.6% in 2014 from 46% in 2009. This puts us well within our hitting range of the targeted FLPR of 55% by 2015.
Such data follows hot on the heels of another measure to increase women participation in decision-making positions. Listed companies, through Bursa Malaysia, will be required to disclose their composition of gender, ethnicity and age for their boards and top management.
By spurring companies to be transparent Najib adds, “This is not just a women’s issue. It’s a business issue. Increasing diversity, particularly at top management and board level, is not just a matter of altruism.”
“It makes business sense and it contributes to better business performance”.
A 2007 study by McKinsey showed a high correlation between companies with diverse boards and strong corporate performance. Those employing women at the highest level outperformed those with no women on boards.
The next question on everyone’s lips is then: how do we find well-qualified women candidates to join the top brass?
The answer lies in efforts spearheaded by the NIEW (NAM Institute for the Empowerment of Women), an agency under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. In recent years, NIEW has trained nearly 900 women to be “board-ready”.
Names and profiles of talented women professionals who have received training under NIEW are available through the Women’s Directors Registry. You can also connect with them through the Ministry and Pemandu.
In his speech, Najib explains some of the purposeful approaches that will be taken to ensure Malaysian women will be represented across the board (pun intended). A mandate will also be issued to all government-linked companies to allow their senior executives to serve on corporate boards, while other private limited companies are encouraged to follow suit by “leveraging on the pool of their own serving women executives when appointing new board members”.
As a recent example, Maxis appointed a senior woman executive from CIMB Group to serve as a board member.
All in all, the 30% movement bodes well for high-performing women professionals in the country, bringing them one step closer to enjoying equality in the workforce, as Malaysia hurtles towards becoming a high-income nation by 2020.