For 30% Club, next target is 50% by 2030. Will we get there?
By Hardesh Singh August 29, 2023
- Avg of 30.6% women representation among top 100 PLCs, 45 yet to hit milestone
- Resistance to change and bias, both conscious and unconscious, remain an issue
The 30% Club Malaysia announced that it had achieved a milestone on the 1st of June when the Securities Commission released data showing that women held 30.6% of board seats of the top 100 public listed companies (PLCs) in Malaysia. This, according to a press release from the organisation, was six months ahead of the 31 Dec target.
It is worth underscoring however that the 30.6% is an average - 45 of the top 100 PLCs have yet to achieve the 30% target, and over 700 of all PLCs are still short with the average coming in at 24.6% for all PLCs.
It is worth stating that any failure to achieve the target is reflective of the corporate sector and not of the organisation. However, with 7 years to go to achieve full gender parity in the boardroom of all PLCs by 2030, it is of public interest to understand what the challenges are and what more needs to be done.
Sustainability Matters sought further insights from the organisation and posed the following questions. Responses were provided by Ami Moris (pic), chair of the 30% Club Malaysia, and advisor, Business & Sustainability, at Maybank Group.
Responses have been edited for brevity.
SM: What happens once we reach 30% women representation in boardrooms across all PLCs, will there be any effort to push for the government to revise its target?
Ami: Compared with many countries across the world and in Southeast Asia, Malaysia punches above its weight for policies on gender diversity. The Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance 2021 prescribes 30% women representation at the board level. Bursa Malaysia has mandated all PLCs to have at least one woman director on their board. The Institutional Investors Council Malaysia (IIC) - comprising large institutional investors such as EPF, PNB, KWAP and Khazanah Nasional - in their revised Malaysian Code for Institutional Investors 2022, clearly laid out expectations for investee companies to have at least 30% women board representation within three years.
In support of the 30% Club's global ambition of Path to Parity announced this year, marked by the launch of a new brand identity, the Malaysian chapter is aiming for all PLCs to have at least 50% women representation by 2030. As of 1 July, there are over 600 out of 900+ PLCs, including 42 out of the top 100 PLCs on Bursa Malaysia that still have less than the threshold of 30%.
Achieving beyond 30% female representation at the board and executive committee level is crucial, as it signals a tipping point towards gender parity. To make this happen, we advocate for a collective top-down and ground-up effort to foster Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) at every stage of the talent lifecycle, from attraction and recruitment to advancement, retention and sponsorship. We are confident that the momentum is building up towards gender parity. This is an evolution, not a revolution.
To achieve these milestones, the 30% Club is pursuing a strategy of activating influential corporate advocates that could influence their ecosystems; influencing key capital market players such as institutional investors to embed DEI in their policies; and enabling a pipeline of board-ready women through our ongoing Board Mentoring Scheme in collaboration with PwC.
We are also open to working with technology startups, private equity firms, and influencers in the technology ecosystem to establish more gender-diverse boards and senior leadership. Microsoft for example has recently joined as a corporate advocate.
SM: There is no lack of initiatives to push for more women representation, but what is the issue with the remaining PLCs adopting this target? Lack of talent, lack of buy-in, or just outright discrimination?
Ami: It is a combination of factors. Lack of awareness of the business case for meaningful diversity, resistance to change, the perception that diversity targets are tokenistic, and conscious and unconscious bias against women.
Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including seeding awareness of the benefits of DEI and the presence of unconscious bias, and supporting leadership in implementing DEI policies and processes.
The 30% Club Malaysia has been activating corporate advocates, we have about 50, to signal their DEI intentions within their organisations, collaborate, share best practices, and keep the DEI momentum going. This year, the likes of Khazanah Nasional and Permodalan Nasional Bhd have joined us.
SM: What expertise is being sought by corporations in appointing women to their boards?
Based on anecdotal evidence, we noted an increasing interest in women board candidates working in areas of sustainability, digital transformation and with international exposure. This is in response to the most pressing needs of businesses. Also, studies have shown a correlation between more diverse boards and financial returns.
The 30% Club Malaysia’s Board Mentoring Scheme has a diverse pool of women mentees. There are entrepreneurs, and professionals in technology, finance, legal, HR, operations, sustainability, and from the civil service including an ex-ambassador. We also have an engineer who now sits on the board of a listed oil and gas company in Norway. Since 2017, 106 women have been mentored, and 41% of them have secured board positions.
SM: Advocating for this requires resources. Given that this work serves our national interest, who exactly is funding this endeavour?
Ami: The 30% Club is a dynamic, business-driven global campaign led by an exceptionally dedicated team of volunteers, with resource support from corporate advocates and strategic partners, including the Securities Commission and Bursa Malaysia. Starting in late 2021, Maybank had come in as a corporate sponsor to lend talent and strategic expertise.
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