Malaysia records highest women’s participation in senior leaderships

Photo: Grant Thomton Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of women holding senior leadership positions in Malaysia has increased to a record-high of 37 per cent, despite the Covid-19 pandemic affecting global economies, according to Grant Thornton’s annual Women in Business report.

Grant Thornton Malaysia PLT’s National Tax Practice leader, Seah Siew Yun said the figure is also above the global figure of 31 per cent, surpassing the important 30 per cent threshold — which, according to research, is the minimum representation needed to change decision-making processes.

“Seeing the proportion of women leaders in Malaysia rise from 31 per cent last year to 37 per cent this year is encouraging,” she said in a statement today.

The report said the number of women in operational executive-level managers (C-suite) roles in Malaysia has increased year-on-year, with the proportion of female chief finance officers rising by 12 percentage points (pp) to 41 per cent, female chief marketing officers (+14 pp to 36 per cent) and female chief information officers (+3pp to 20 per cent).

However, the proportion of women holding chief executive officer positions had slightly declined by 5pp to 10 per cent, the report said, noting that this has been trending downwards since 2019.

The number of women in leadership positions in the Asean region also showed positive growth, from 35 per cent last year to 38 per cent in 2021.

The report also noted that Malaysian businesses are taking positive actions to improve the gender balance of their leadership team, including creating an inclusive culture (54 per cent), ensuring equal access to developmental work opportunities (48 per cent), and providing mentoring and coaching (47 per cent).

“Recognising the importance of gender-balanced leadership team, more businesses are now walking the talk, and it is encouraging to see more businesses placing a priority in creating an inclusive culture in their workplace,” said Seah.

She said the number of businesses taking such initiatives has increased from 17 per cent last year to 54 per cent in 2021.

While the number of women in leadership roles has grown, she noted the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on women, particularly working mothers.

The report revealed that 56 per cent of respondents in Malaysia agree that in their respective organisations, the new working practices due to the pandemic would benefit women’s career trajectories in the long-term.

“Breaking the 30 per cent barrier certainly does represent progress — having grown from 23 per cent since 14 years ago when we first started tracking this — but these gains can easily be lost. “Reassuringly, 85 per cent of businesses in Malaysia say they are taking action to ensure the engagement and inclusion of their employees against the negative backdrop of the pandemic,” she added. – Bernama