Malaysia increases efforts to add women on boards in time for 2018

Malaysia's landmark Petronas Twin towers are silhoutted as the sun sets over the Kuala Lumpur skyline on June 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)

The 30% Club Malaysia, a movement of Chairs and CEOs who advocate gender parity at all levels of their organisations is intensifying its efforts to help Malaysia achieve 30 percent women representation on public-listed corporate boards by 2020.

The chapter recently hosted a Business Leaders’ Roundtable followed by the Board Mentoring Scheme.

Founding Chair of the 30% Club Malaysia, Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar said in a press release, “The country has set itself a target to reach 30% women representation on public-listed boards by 2020, and the 30% Club is working very hard to meet this target. During the course of 2017, we have been focusing our efforts in helping to place at least one woman director on all-male boards, particularly those of large market cap or top 100 companies, and I am pleased to report we are making very good progress.”

Business Leaders’ Roundtable

She also asserted that since its launch in Malaysia in May 2015, the 30% Club’s initiatives, such as the Leaders’ Roundtable, mentoring programme, and placements of women directors, have yielded positive results.

“We are seeing more Boards acknowledging that gender diversity makes good business sense. And with more qualified women making themselves available for board appointments, we are almost reaching our target of having at least one woman on Boards of top 100 companies by 2018,” she added.

The Roundtable plays the role as a platform to engage with senior directors of public-listed companies on their specific challenges in meeting the boardroom diversity target.

More than a few Roundtable sessions have already been completed during the year which managed to provide the 30% Club with insights on the difficulties that boards face when it comes to engaging women directors. This includes knowing where to source for qualified candidates and finding those with specific skills.

The Q3 2017 statistics also indicate that the percentage of Top 100 companies that have 30% women representation has risen to 19.1% from 16.6% at end-2016.

The number of Top 100 companies that do not have a single woman on their boards has fallen to 10 as of yesterday, from 14 in Q3 2017.

Percentage of board seats held by women in Southeast Asia.

Motivation and learning through mentorship

On the other hand, the Mentoring Scheme was set up to help improve the profiling of potential women candidates by connecting potential women directors with current Chairs, Board Directors and senior corporate leaders.

There has been positive feedback from the pilot mentoring scheme, that is currently still running.

One of the mentors, Tunku Ali Redhauddin ibni Tuanku Muhriz, Chairman of Bumi Armada Berhad, said, "I became a mentor because, in addition to wanting to see board membership be more representative of the population, I've seen how gender diversity contributes positively towards board performance. I sit on a range of boards that vary in composition, and I find that the conversations (and the resulting decision making) are better when a broad mix of skills, backgrounds, and experiences are well represented."

“At a time in Malaysia when we have a significant proportion of women graduates entering the workforce, it would be good to see more female role models emerge in the corporate world," he added.

By encouraging the demand for women directors through these efforts, the 30% Club Malaysia Chapter hopes to make a material improvement to the number of women on corporate boards.

Apart from meeting the 30 percent goal deadline, the urgent placement of women directors should also be motivated through the belief that gender diversity will truly improve workplaces and benefit businesses.


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