Asean companies are walking the talk on gender equality at the workplace

THE number of women holding senior leadership positions in Malaysia has reached the highest ever record at 37%, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, revealed a Grant Thornton annual Women in Business report.

The Asean region also showed a positive increase from 35% in 2020 to 38% this year. Currently, all other regions apart from the Asia Pacific (28%) have now surpassed the 30% milestone.

“Seeing the proportion of woman leaders in Malaysia rise this year has been encouraging,” said Grant Thornton Malaysia PLT national tax practice leader Seah Siew Yun.

The report also shows the types of leadership roles the women are taking up in the whole Asean region, with a high number of them in operational C-suite roles such as chief finance officers (41%), chief marketing officers (36%, with Malaysia being the highest) and chief information officers (20%).

Seah Siew Yun

However, the percentage of women CEOs went down five percentage points from last year to 10%. Admittedly, the percentage of women CEOs have been on a downward trend since 2019.

Malaysian businesses are also taking positive actions to improve leadership balance, with the most common three are creating an inclusive culture (54%), ensuring equal access to developmental work opportunities (48%) and providing mentoring and coaching (47%).

“More businesses are walking the talk once the importance of gender balanced leadership is realised, prioritising on a more inclusive working culture in the workplace,” Siew Yun added.

In terms off ensuring employee engagement and inclusion, more than half of Malaysian businesses (56%) have shown to create an environment where employees can ‘speak up’ with ideas, issues and questions.

They are also promoting work-life balance and/or flexibility for employees (54%) and instilling new working practices to better engage with all employees (50%).

Although fulfilling the 30% of women holding leadership positions is crucial, it is not the end goal, and businesses are encouraged to continue enabling women to realise their ambitions to create better gender balance.

While the number of women in leadership roles have grown, questions remain over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, particularly working mothers.

The report also showed that over half (56%) of respondents in in Malaysia agree that new working practices in their organisations will benefit the career of women employees in the long-term. – Mar 8, 2021

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