Women make up 40% of senior management in Malaysian companies


Women currently make up 40% of positions in senior management teams within companies in Malaysia. 

This is a 3 percentage point (pp) jump from 2021, which is the highest number ever recorded since 2004 according to Grant Thornton International Ltd.’s Women in Business research, which surveys senior leaders from 5,000 businesses across 29 economies.

Globally, women make up 32% (up 1pp from 2021) of positions in senior management teams within companies. In ASEAN, women make up 37% (down 1pp from 2021) of positions in senior management teams within companies.  

“New working practices are in part responsible for the increase of women at a senior level around the globe and even in Malaysia. In the wake of the pandemic, as economies recover, we can see that 76% of Malaysian businesses are implementing new working practices to create a more inclusive environment for female talents.

“96% of Malaysian businesses are taking action on engagement and inclusion (up 11pp in 2021). These actions include instilling long-term virtual and flexible working (44%), promoting work/life balance and/or flexibility for employees (41%) and creating an environment where all colleagues can ‘speak up’ with ideas, issues and questions (40%),” said  National Tax Practice Leader at Grant Thornton Malaysia PLT Seah Siew Yun.

She added new working practices initiated from the pandemic are ultimately benefiting many women who, in the past, were confined by more traditional approaches to work. 

“Now, they have the freedom of choice and are more empowered to realise their leadership potential, opening up new ways to access female talent and we foresee that more inclusive environments are here to stay,” she added.

At 70%, Malaysian businesses agree that they have seen external pressure increase from stakeholders – including customers, regulators, suppliers and investors – on their organisation to achieve and maintain gender balance as a result of the pandemic.

The results of the research also showed a welcome upward shift in the number of senior and C-suite functions held by women that were more closely related to operations and overall strategic leadership. 

In Malaysia, increases in the proportion of female chief executive officers (CEOs) and managing directors (MDs); chief finance officers (CFOs); chief operating officers (COOs); and chief information officers (CIOs) were all observed. 

“We saw a significant rise of female CEOs in Malaysia at 38%, an increase of 28pp in 2021. This is the highest percentage of women holding CEO/MD ever recorded in Malaysia during the research. There is also an increase of women CFO, COO and CIO, which correlates with the number of women holding senior positions, which is also encouraging,” said Siew Yun.

Finance Minister, Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz in tabling of Budget 2022 said that it will be compulsory for all major companies to have one female director on their board by September 2022, and for all other listed companies by January 2023. This could be the catalyst and the needed push for female representation.

Diversity in every sense is good for businesses as it encourages different ways of thinking and opens new opportunities for growth. This is particularly relevant in a rapidly changing global business environment, as a wide range of perspectives will help businesses to better analyse and navigate new landscapes.

Bridging the talent gap is a never-ending challenge for businesses. With nearly half (47%) of Malaysian business leaders expecting a skill shortage to be a major constraint to their businesses in the year ahead, they are putting retaining existing talent (48%), having diverse teams (34%) and addressing future talent and skills shortages (32%) top on their priority list.

“Talents have an increasing desire to be associated or work in a company that is committed to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) policies, share values and principles that reflect the importance of D&I. Having a strong, transparent, well-articulated diversity agenda helps attract and retain purpose-led employees from all backgrounds who are looking to work for more inclusive companies,” added Siew Yun.

Businesses that are planning ahead to address future talent shortages can take note of financial incentives from the government such as JaminKerja. 

She further said that the incentive covers employees who hire women who have not worked for more than 365 days, single mothers and housewives in an effort to encourage women to return to work. This could open new ways of accessing more talents, including females.

“Business leaders need to champion the cause of gender diversity and create inclusive cultures in which a wide range of voices are listened to. Leadership from the top is key to driving change as is setting clear diversity and inclusion goals against which progress can be measured.

On that note, we are pleased to share that in Grant Thornton Malaysia, 43% of senior positions are being held by women,” she added.