KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 — Malaysian women today make up 33 per cent of positions in senior management teams within companies in the country, the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) has found.

According to the report, Malaysia has seen positive gains of 10 percentage points from last year and is the highest since 2007. This is above the global percentage of 29 per cent, the report stated.

The report also revealed that 90 per cent of businesses in Malaysia have at least one woman in senior management. This is above the global percentage of 87 per cent — a figure which has held steady since last year.

The top three senior management positions are human resource directors (52 per cent), chief financial officers (29 per cent) and chief operating officers (28 per cent).


“The 2020 data sees an encouraging pattern in women holding significant roles in business operations, especially in the areas of people and strategy in Malaysia.

“The percentages have increased this year for the roles of human resource directors, 52 per cent from last year’s 44 per cent, which means Malaysia has the highest number of businesses with women as human resource directors in the Asean region,” said Country Managing Partner of Grant Thornton Malaysia PLT, Datuk NK Jasani.

He added that Malaysia also has the highest number of businesses with women as chief operating officer in the Asean region — 28 per cent from last year’s 11 per cent.


However, he noted there was a decline in the number of women holding the chief financial officer position in Malaysia.

“Our number is the lowest in the Asean region,” he said

Another area covered by the report also revealed that 60 per cent of Malaysian businesses are actively working on removing barriers to gender parity at senior levels, the lowest number in the Asean region.

It pointed out Vietnam is the country with the highest number of businesses taking action (100 per cent) followed by Indonesia (99 per cent), the Philippines (94 per cent), Singapore (77 per cent) and Thailand (69 per cent).

The report also highlighted that, in Malaysia, businesses that are taking action to improve or preserve several areas, including gender balance of their leadership teams, are ensuring equal access to developmental work opportunities (32 per cent), providing mentoring and coaching (23 per cent), creating an inclusive culture (17 per cent) and flexible working (17 per cent) as well as setting targets or quotas for gender balance at leadership levels (17 per cent).

In addition, the report noted that leaders play a crucial role in creating an inclusive culture especially for women, the report stated.

On promoting a sense of inclusion among women, businesses surveyed have indicated that their most senior leader personally encouraged colleagues to speak up with ideas and issues (35 per cent), visibly considered the full talent pool for progression into leadership roles (25 per cent), asked female talent what it is like to work at the company and how it can improve as well as instil new working practices to better engage all employees (both at 21 per cent).

“In Grant Thornton Malaysia, we are proud to note that we have an increased number of women holding senior positions in our firm at 34 per cent from last year’s 32 per cent.

“Our firm practices inclusive and open communication to gather opinions from our female leaders. In terms of their development, equal opportunities are given to our female leaders to go through leadership programmes. The key factors are valuing the dedication and contribution towards the firm’s growth and goals, regardless of the gender,” Jasani said.

He also stressed that if Malaysia wants to see more women in senior positions, businesses need to express this intention.

“Policies that ensure diversity of thought at the decision-making table, that address equal opportunity in career development and bias in recruitment and develop inclusive cultures can’t just be a nice to have — they are a must.

“Once implemented, these policies must be enforced and regularly reassessed to judge their effectiveness.

“When that is combined with real commitment from senior leadership, only then will real transformational change take place,” he added.

Grant Thornton is one of the world’s leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms.

The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. Launched in 1992, the IBR now provides insight into the views and expectations of around 10,000 businesses across 32 economies.