Less than 20% women hold board seats in PLCs, says Maybank

by S BIRRUNTHA / graphic by MZUKRI

WOMEN on average hold less than 20% of board seats at public-listed companies (PLCs) across Asean, according to Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) chairman Tan Sri Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa.

However, he was optimistic that the situation will change quickly and Maybank is committed to playing a role in this as a steward of the “Asean Opportunity”.

He added that leadership for environmental, social and governance (ESG) as well as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) start from the top in the boardroom.  

“As the corporate sponsor of the 30% Club in Malaysia, I can attest that we are already on the move.

“At Maybank, we are integrating DEI initiatives into business outcomes. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we have a plan.

“As an achievement, for the fifth consecutive year, Maybank is one of four Malaysian PLCs and among 418 across 45 countries that have been included in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index,” he noted during Maybank’s Invest Asean 2022 conference today.

Commenting further, Zamzamzairani said there is also a growing realisation of the importance of sustainability in ensuring a just future for all.  

He noted that people need to continuously work within their organisations to embed ESG principles into their decisions and this can include DEI policies and practices for boards, senior management and organisations as a whole.  

“Not only is it the right thing, but it is also backed by a sound business case that has proven to be rewarding.

“As leaders, we must include more diverse voices — people who may not look or sound like us, but can nonetheless contribute meaningfully,” he said.

Zamzamzairani also emphasised that increasingly, investors are probing investees about their ESG and DEI practices.

He noted that many are voting against boards that are not diverse and who do not do right by their stakeholders.

He added that regulators such as Bursa Malaysia and Singapore Exchange are also requiring issuers to disclose more about diversity and inclusion as they form part of the materiality assessment for sustainability.

Additionally, Zamzamzairani said to sustain growth whether, in a crisis or good times, Asean has to follow through with inclusive and equitable development by leaving no one behind, facilitating genuinely shared prosperity and unlocking opportunities for competitiveness.

He added that transitioning to a more digital, borderless and low carbon economy will challenge us as jobs may get displaced. 

“But, we must know the economic benefits will prevail. People across population segments must feel hopeful and be able to move into new opportunities.  

“Capital markets must be more vibrant and lead with intent because we know a diverse and equitable Asean will be a sustainable Asean,” he stressed.

Zamzamzairani noted that this takes leadership from captains of industries and institutional investors to step up and become the leaders that Asean needs. 

“As board members, C-suites and chief investment officers, you have the ability to make an impact,” he concluded.