Research Shows That Working Women Occupy Less Top Roles Than Men In Malaysia

40% of senior management positions are held by women this year, an unchanged percentage when compared to 2022.

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Business advisory organisation Grant Thornton recently conducted a study on the progress of women in senior leadership positions in the Malaysian workforce

Referred to as the International Business Report (IBR) 2023 research into women in business globally, the study found that only 40% of senior management positions are held by women, an unchanged record when compared to 2022.

On a global scale, it was revealed that the percentage is at a staggering 32.4%, showing an increase of just half a percentage point since 2022, and a 13 percentage point growth since the inception of the study in 2004.

While the study also considered pandemic-prompted change in working practices, the overall number was described as "concerningly slow".

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Image via Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

The study also showed that this progress is still at risk of regressing, and that businesses must push for parity among men and women in a prompt manner

The Partner of Quality Management for Grant Thornton Malaysia, Silvia Tan, stated that the increasing emphasis on corporate responsibility and global standards are putting pressure on firms to form diverse leaderships, in which failing to do so will cause difficulties when raising capital and attracting investors. 

"Society is demanding a faster pace of improvement, and our Malaysian government is also increasing emphasis on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies, thus businesses must do more," she stated in the report.

"We've seen Malaysian businesses showing positive commitment for the past few years and we've even surpassed the 30% threshold, but why the inertia?"

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As the world moves towards a post-pandemic environment, the shift of working models in Malaysia also had a significant impact on the number of women in senior management positions

According to the study, 45% of businesses are now purely office-based, 52% have a hybrid and flexibility approach, while 3% are home-based.

"With close to half of businesses back to purely office-based, this impacts our progress to promote female leadership. Businesses that don't have flexible working practices tend to be less attractive workplaces to senior women. With many businesses not embracing hybrid or flexible ways of working, women are dropping out of their current positions, considering part-time work, or even starting their own venture," added Tan.

The study also stated that amidst a global skill shortage and talent crisis, businesses that adopt flexible working models may also reap benefits of improved cross-border working and access to a larger talent pool. This includes those with disabilities, those living in geographically remote locations, or those seeking a better work-life balance.

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Nevertheless, the report also noted that Malaysian businesses are focused on succession planning to get more women into senior leadership positions

This is done primarily by implementing programmes for mentoring and coaching while nurturing individual working styles and needs. 

"Businesses should now focus their attention on developing more transparent pathways to leadership and more transparency across recruitment, promotions, and performance. Providing clarity and equal opportunity in every aspect of leadership roles, from recruitment to performance reviews, is crucial to break the glass ceiling," said Tan.

Encouraging parity through intentional and decisive actions, Grant Thornton included five of their own recommendations to promote better change:
1. Offer flexibility
2. Have greater intent
3. Be transparent and nurturing
4. Act knowingly
5. Monitor and refine

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"It is clear we now need to inject greater determination so that we don't regress. Greater diversity is always a plus point for businesses as it demonstrates they are ethical and fair, brings a boost to business performance, and results in better outcomes and decisions," noted Tan in her concluding thoughts.

Click here to read the full study on Grant Thornton.

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