PM launches ‘30% Club’ in bid to triple number of women on boards

Najib said Malaysia is currently lagging behind its target of having more women represented on the boards of public companies. — Reuters pic
Najib said Malaysia is currently lagging behind its target of having more women represented on the boards of public companies. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched today the Malaysian chapter of the "30% Club" to help the country achieve its target of tripling the percentage of women on companies’ boards to 30 per cent by 2016.

Najib said Malaysia is currently lagging behind its target of having more women represented on the boards of public companies.

"But on this we are currently behind target. The figure is only 16 per cent at present for public company boards; and for listed boards, the percentage is even smaller, at 10.3 per cent.

"So I urge the leaders amongst you to do more, to take the next step, to break those glass ceilings and install women on your boards," he said at the launch, which saw the attendance of senior civil servants and corporate captains.

To help achieve this, Najib announced a new policy where government-linked companies (GLCs) will allow their executives to serve on the boards of other listed companies, also encouraging all listed firms to use the same policy.

In the future, listed companies will also need to disclose the composition and diversity of their boards and top management in terms of gender, ethnicity and age, he said.

Beyond board positions, Najib said Malaysia is on track to achieving its 30 per cent target of women in top management, noting that a joint survey by Talent Corp and PWC last year found that women now make up 24 per cent of such positions in public listed firms.

He noted that the government itself had already hit its target of 30 per cent for women in decision-making positions or those with grade Jusa C and above.

Earlier, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala said that as of the first quarter of 2015, women account for 10.3 per cent of board positions in companies, up from 10.2 per cent and 8.6 per cent in 2014 and 2013 respectively.

In the 10th Malaysia Plan, targets were set for Malaysia to increase the number of women in key decision-making positions on company boards to 30 per cent and to boost female participation in the workforce to 55 per cent by 2016.

Today, Najib said that Malaysia was on track to hitting its targeted female labour force participation rate, noting that it had gone up from 46 per cent in 2009 to 53.6 per cent last year.

This meant that around 600,000 women joined the workforce last year and the generation of an extra 0.3 per cent of the GDP growth each year, Najib said.

Acknowledging that he had set Olympic-like targets for women participation on boards, Najib said it was achievable, citing the UK experience where it nearly doubled the percentage of women on the boards of the top 100 Financial Times Stock Exchange from 12.5 per cent in 2011 to 23.5 per cent in 2015.

Najib also addressed scepticism about putting women in top decision-making positions, stating that it was not mere altruism but makes firm business sense, citing a 2007 Mckinsey study that showed such firms performing better than those without women on their boards.

The "30% Club" was started in the UK in 2010 to encourage women representation in company boards. The Malaysian chapter is the seventh, following suit after Ireland, US, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Australia.