Malaysia gets high marks for women in senior management

PETALING JAYA: Businesses in Malaysia have bucked the global trend with the percentage of women in senior management at 28% in 2018, against the global average of 24%, according to Grant Thornton International Ltd’s annual Women in Business report.

According to the report, 80% of businesses in Malaysia now have at least one woman on the senior management team, as opposed to 75% of businesses globally.

Meanwhile, businesses globally have taken one step back on women in leadership, with a decrease in the percentage of women in senior management although more businesses now have at least one woman on its senior management team.

The report revealed that 75% of businesses globally in 2018 have at least one woman on the senior management team compared with 66% in 2017. However, the percentage of women in senior management slipped from 25% to 24%.

According to Grant Thornton, introducing policies alone is not enough to drive real progress and a wider culture of inclusion championed from the top is needed to create change.

“While it’s hugely positive that women are in senior roles at more businesses, it’s disappointing that they are being spread so thinly. This suggests businesses are concentrating on box-ticking at the expense of meaningful progress and means they will not gain from the benefits of true gender diversity,” said Grant Thornton Malaysia director of technical and corporate affairs Silvia Tan.

“We need to move beyond policy and focus on the vital role leadership and culture can play in creating real progress in gender balance. There is compelling evidence of the link between gender diversity in leadership and commercial success. The current volatility in the global economy and ongoing technological innovation and disruption makes the issue more important than ever,” she said in a statement today.

The report revealed that gender equality policies are abundant and widespread in Malaysia, with 82% of businesses adopting equal pay for men and women performing the same roles and 66% implementing non-discrimination policies for recruitment.

Measures that support working parents are also popular among businesses, including paid parental leave (42%) and flexible hours (24%).

However, there is no clear correlation between which, and how many policies businesses have in place and the gender diversity of their senior management teams.

In Malaysia, companies say they are motivated to introduce gender equality policies primarily to attract and keep employees (73%), enhance company performance (73%) to live up to organisational values (73%), to meet the expectations of wider society (58%) and because of the vision of senior leadership (51%).

However, businesses say the barriers to introducing policies include the lack of evidence that it has a positive impact on company performance (30%), the cost of implementation (22%) and the complexity of translating good intentions into practice (20%).

These companies also want the government to do more to address the issue of gender inequality in business leadership (68%) and they feel that businesses and government need to work collaboratively (62%).

Note that the government has already recommended in the Malaysian Code of Corporate Governance 2016 that there be women directors on the boards of large public listed companies.