Photo above (left to right): Johan Mahmood Merican, CEO of TalentCorp, Datuk Ranjit Singh, chairman of Securities Commission Malaysia, Elizabeth Passey, steering committee member of 30% Club, Iain Lo, chairman of Shell Malaysia, and Helen Brand, CEO of ACCA.
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.
Women in leadership Malaysia
Working in partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), TalentCorp launched the Women in Leadership Malaysia (WIL MY) programme for senior women managers in April 2014.
This development programme supports the careers of Malaysian women professionals across industry sectors and business functions who are one to three career stages away from a senior leadership or board role.
WIL MY has a strong focus on evolving women’s unique leadership style through a blend of workshops and mentoring. Mentor-Mentee pairing Roshan Thiran, CEO of Leaderonomics and Sharifah Sarah Syed Mohamed Tahir, Maybank head of strategy & finance share their experience.
Sharifah Sarah Syed Mohamed Tahir, head, strategy and finance, Maybank Bhd (Mentee)
When I was selected for the Women In Leadership Development Programme last year, my first thoughts were, “finally an avenue for me to meet other women who are struggling in a male-dominated work environment.
My request to the coordinators when asked about what I was looking for in a mentor was relatively simple – someone I could have a good conversation with, who would be able to challenge my perspectives and would be prepared to be brutally honest with me should I go astray.
Indeed, the wisdom of our Mentor-Mentee Matcher was precise. Roshan made it easy for me to share my experiences. At the start of the programme, I sought to seek solace and round up more women support for a cause that has been long fought for. What Roshan offered me was far better. His views allowed me to see things differently through the eyes of a male which is more often than not the question of gender biasness.
Women and men have different perspectives in life and different ways of approaching things. His sharing about his experiences as a leader at a very young age inspired me to take advantage of my youth and be daring enough to take up opportunities without overthinking.
This mentorship experience is valuable and thank you Roshan for lending me your ears and guidance when I needed them the most.
Roshan Thiran, CEO, Leaderonomics (Mentor)
A few months ago, I had the privilege of being the only male mentor for a group of amazing women leaders. As I approached my first mentoring session with Sarah, my mentee from Maybank, I started to recall my mentorship moments.
I remember the numerous superficial relationships with senior company officers assigned to me through official mentorship programmes that never yielded much value. But there were a few mentorship relationships that worked. And it worked not because the mentor was great but because the relationship was beneficial to both.
So to me, the secret to successful mentorship is – it has to be beneficial both ways and there has to be a “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) for both mentee and mentor.
After I met Sarah, I realised how amazingly brilliant and talented she was. I resolved to learn from her as much as I could and help her with any challenges she may have. This “reverse” mentoring actually helped me overcome my natural tendency to be over-reliant on my experiences and knowledge and not be able to see things objectively or be blinded by what is happening in Malaysian organisations.
At the end of the mentorship, I believe I have benefited tremendously. I not only have gotten to know a tremendously talented individual that will be a significant leader in Malaysia in the future, I learnt many lessons on corporate Malaysia from her too. In spite of feeling a bit out of place initially as the only male mentor, I am now thankful for the experience.
My advice: if you are a mentor or plan to be one, make sure you make it a reverse mentorship. Learn as much from others even though you may be the mentor.
The second batch of Women in Leadership (WIL MY) programme will commence in August 2015. To find out more about the programme, contact Liza Chong at firstname.lastname@example.org
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First appeared on Leaderonomics.com. Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 23 May 2015
Lay Hsuan is the content curator for Leaderonomics.com. She writes occasionally and is the caretaker for Leaderonomics social media channels. She is happiest when you leave comments on the website, or subscribe to Leader’s Digest, or share Leaderonomics content on social media.