Women’s groups laud, but employers baulk at quota
KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — While women’s groups welcomed the Najib administration’s move in implementing a 30 per cent quota for women in the boardroom, employers have called the policy an insult to qualified women.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Ivy Josiah said the quota was necessary to help women overcome a “very thick” glass ceiling in the workplace.
“The old boys’ club is still very much alive,” Ivy told The Malaysian Insider today.
“Women who are qualified are not being promoted because there’s a culture where women are being discriminated against...it (the policy) should be a temporary measure to give women a leg-up,” she added.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced earlier today that the corporate sector must have at least 30 per cent female representation at the boardroom level by 2016.
He pointed out that only 13 per cent, or 91 women, were appointed as board directors in the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.
Of the 200 companies listed on Bursa Malaysia, he said, women only take up 7.6 per cent of boardroom-level posts as at November 2010, while there are only six per cent, or 45 women, holding such posts in financial institutions as at April this year.
All Women’s Action Society (Awam) programmes manager Betty Yeoh said there were only a few success cases of women breaking the glass ceiling, such as Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz and Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) director-general Datuk Jalilah Baba.
“There are women who are capable who have not been given this opportunity to sit on this board of directorship... men have always been there, we’re not denying them anything,” said Yeoh.
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan, however, warned that the policy may indeed hinder companies from taking in more qualified women beyond the 30 per cent rule.
“If they want to be in that bracket, it must be by merit, not by quotas. It’s like they got the position because the quota says so, and not because they’re capable,” said Shamsuddin.
“If they prove that they can perform the job, then there is no need for us to give 30 per cent or not... it can (even) be 100 per cent women, depending on whether they’re suitable for the job,” he added.
Switzerland’s IMD business school research fellow Jean-Louis Barsoux reportedly said quotas did not address the root problem of helping women score top executive positions.
He pointed out that Norway did not see an increase of women in senior management positions, despite introducing a 40 per cent quota for women in the boardroom.
Barsoux also said incoming women found it difficult to earn respect, with new appointees in the Scandinavian country being labelled “golden skirts”.