KUALA LUMPUR: A study has found that the boards of Malaysia’s top 100 companies have significant gender and age gaps, with directors lacking overseas career exposure.

Citing its recent survey which assessed 873 directorships of Malaysia’s largest companies based on market capitalisation on Bursa Malaysia, RHL Ventures Sdn Bhd said the board members are predominantly male, at 73%.

“The results also show that only 5% of directors are aged below 40, a significant 95% aged over 40, and most are in their 50s and 60s,” the local private investment firm said in a statement today.

RHL Ventures said the research also found that most directors are experienced working in government-linked companies and institutions such as the Employees Provident Fund, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Bank Negara Malaysia, Permodalan Nasional Bhd and the Petronas Group of Companies.

“Also, notably, most directors (74%) are currently serving on the boards of at least two companies, while 88% have served in their positions for at least two terms,” it said.

While most directors have experienced working in Malaysia’s top corporates, the company said some 58% do not have overseas exposure in their career progression and around 42% have this as either an employee, a company board director or both.

Nevertheless, it said, overseas exposure was found in education as many went to institutions such as Cambridge University and the University of London.

“Another popular destination is Harvard University, with 73 attendees; however most of them enrolled in management programmes instead of Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees.

“It should be noted that the most common educational background for the directors is the University of Malaya, with it accommodating 145 of the 873 directors assessed,” it said.

In terms of ethnic diversity, RHL Ventures said most directors comprised Malays and ethnic Chinese, followed by ethnic Indians and foreigners from countries such as Singapore, Japan and Australia.

However, diversification between Malay and ethnic Chinese is exceptionally equal, at 41% and 42% of board compositions respectively, it added.

Commenting on this, RHL Ventures managing partner Raja Hamzah Abidin said Malaysian company boards remain highly conservative, with many preferring industry captains who have spent much of their career in the nation’s biggest corporates, which could explain the low board diversification.

“With the dawn of a new decade, this composition should open up to welcome leaders outside the conventional demographic.

“We need to see fresher ideas and perspectives injected into our nation’s top companies,” he said. – Jan 10, 2020 Bernama

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