KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 — Putrajaya should deliver on its pledge for women to occupy one in three boardroom seats, gender advocacy groups said in response to the Budget 2022 target of at least one female director in all companies.
Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) programme director Karen Lai said this should also be expanded to cover the public sector and politicians.
She said it was important to continue such efforts until the country reached “the minimum critical mass” of 30 per cent women’s representation in all decision-making levels.
“Currently, women’s political representation is still lagging behind and this has a significant impact on laws and policies affecting women, children and families on the ground,” she told Malay Mail.
In 2011, then-prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that Putrajaya would implement a 30 per cent quota for women in corporate boardrooms but this was never made into law.
However, Nation of Women (NoW) president Hanizah Talha said it is also critical to ensure qualified women were appointed on merit, and not simply to make up the quota.
Institute of Corporate Directors Malaysia (ICDM) said the push for more women to be included in leadership roles was empirically beneficial, citing a study that showed companies with at least 30 per cent women directors reported 38 per cent higher return on equity versus firms with all-male directors.
“This is a reflection of the importance of advocating for greater diversity on boards,” it said.
Separately, the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) asked whether the Budget 2022 went far enough to fundamentally address gender inequality in the country.
Among others, it said there was no increased investment to improve the country’s childcare infrastructure despite the lack of this being a major impediment for women’s work.
“Besides investments in D11 (Sexual, Women and Child Investigation), we did not hear any indication of increasing investments for crucial services like One Stop Crisis Centres in public hospitals or an increase in JKM officers.
“Commitment to increase women’s protection shelters was announced, though the investment figure was not mentioned,” it said.
Sisters In Islam communication officer Aleza Othman said the initiative for single mothers dubbed “MyKasih Capital” did not appear to have sufficient allocations.
“Allocations are made for single parent households that can see them benefitting up to RM2,500. The allocation for programme MyKasih Kapital would only benefit up to 2,000 single mothers when the number of single mothers in Malaysia exceed more than this.
“Whether the budget addressed the structural poverty issues faced by single parent households affected by the pandemic remains to be seen,” she told Malay Mail.
When tabling Budget 2022 today, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced plans to tackle sexual crimes against women and children, address period poverty, assist single-parent households, and increase women’s representation in corporate leadership.
* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.