The 30% Club Malaysia chapter is intensifying its efforts to help Malaysia achieve 30% women representation on public listed corporate boards by 2020.
Founding Chair of the 30% Club Malaysia, Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar said, “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.”
The Business Leaders’ Roundtable is the 30% Club’s platform to engage with senior directors of public-listed companies on their specific challenges in meeting the boardroom diversity target. Several sessions have already been completed during the year, giving the 30% Club insights on the difficulties that boards face in engaging women directors, including knowing where to source for qualified candidates and finding those with specific skills.
Tan Sri Zarinah said 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.
Chief Regulatory Officer of the Securities Commission Malaysia, Foo Lee Mei shared that companies should internalise good governance and appreciate the business case for diverse boards. Foo applauded the efforts of the 30% Club in advocating the participation of women on boards which has contributed to the improvements seen in the number of women on boards of listed companies.
Bursa data shows, of the 923 companies listed, one hundred are Top 100 companies. The Q3 2017 statistics 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 ten today, from fourteen in Q3 2017.
While the pathway to board directorship may not always be a smooth passage for some, the Roundtable also discussed barriers that are put up by women themselves. Some of the examples cited include women being discouraged by the perceived “negatives”, such as heavy penalties put on board directors for non-compliance or the daunting task of learning a new business or its vocabulary, barriers that may be overcome through meaningful engagement and mentoring.
The 30% Club cross-sector Board Mentoring Scheme was piloted in July this year in partnership with PwC Malaysia. Following its success, the second instalment was kicked off after the Roundtable with a new batch of 10 mentors and 10 mentees.
The function of the Mentoring Scheme is to help improve the profiling of potential women candidates by connecting potential women directors with current Chairs, Board Directors and senior corporate leaders. The programme is designed to provide the mentees a better chance at being appointed to boards and benefitting from the counsel and possible referral of their mentors.
Inspiring change through mentorship
Feedback from the pilot mentoring scheme, which is still running, has been positive. Mentors report that the sessions have given them better insights to the concerns women face and the experience has enabled them to plan the boardroom journey with their mentees as well as inspire them to be champions of change.
Chairman of Bumi Armada Berhad, Tunku Ali Redhauddin ibni Tuanku Muhriz 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."
Director, SP Setia Berhad, Philip Tan Puay Koon said, “While the mentoring program provides a networking platform to be connected with other board practitioners, the board-ready women are given the opportunity to have a one-to-one mentoring over a period of time so that she can hear what it is really like to be a board member and the expectations of being a board member from an experienced board mentor.”
“Most importantly, the nine-month mentorship programme gives the mentee sufficient time to ask questions, clear doubts, "shadow" the mentor, where possible, and to be introduced to new networks, and understand the practical dos and don'ts of a board member,” he explained.
Mentees have found the sessions to be valuable as a way of preparing them for eventual board positions, through open and constructive dialogues, own goal-setting, sharing of experiences and learning about corporate governance and core values that board of directors uphold.
A mentee from a law firm expressed that her mentor was “very open with sharing her insights on the Malaysian corporate life and one of the key takeaways from the first meeting was to consider which types of Boards one would wish to serve on, in light of one’s own core values and interests.”
By encouraging the demand for women directors at the Leaders’ Roundtable, and preparing the supply of women through the mentoring, the 30% Club Malaysia Chapter hopes to make a material improvement to the number of women on corporate boards. Notwithstanding its resolve to help Malaysia meet the target, the 30% Club maintains that the urgent placement of women directors should not be determined by the desire to meet a deadline, but by the belief that gender diversity means good business.