According to the World Bank, participation by women in the workforce in Malaysia stands at 46%, which is low by international standards compared to neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. What do you think are the reasons and how can organisations tackle this situation?
- Women make up ~57% of university graduates in Malaysia, and a sizeable proportion of these women enter the workforce. However, this is still low compared to neighbouring countries, and much lower compared to other international benchmarks. In Singapore women's participation rate is around 60%, while in Australia it is around 70%.
- It is also worrying that we seem to be losing these women as they get to middle management, with only ~11% remaining in the workforce – this is in contrast to Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong which are able to retain ~20% of women, similar to Scandinavian countries like Norway - and only 5% of women making it to the Executive Committee or Board Room in Malaysia
- The reasons for this attrition are manifold – and we have seen in our Women Matter Report, that the top 2 barriers cited as barriers to women's participation in the workforce in Asia & Europe are the same: the “Doubleburden Syndrome” – or the need for women to balance work and home responsibilities and the “Anytime, anywhere” performance model common in business . 40 percent of business leaders surveyed in our Women Matter Report ranked the “double burden” of women in Asia—holding a job while looking after their families—as the greatest obstacle preventing women from moving into senior roles in the corporate sector.
- However, the third most-cited reason in Asia is a lack of pro-family public policies or support services (e.g., quality childcare, parental care) – which is potentially an increasing concern in Malaysia today. This contrasts with the situation in Europe, where McKinsey’s latest research suggests this is no longer perceived as a major barrier
- There needs to be an appropriate policy framework that supports women, whether they choose to remain in the workforce (e.g., quality childcare options; part-time/flexi hours; job-sharing) and for those who wish to return to the workforce (e.g., job security, retraining). And of course, employers need to be incentivized to support these family-friendly policies as well
- In our 2012 Women Matter: An Asian Perspective, McKinsey & Company estimates that raising the participation rates of women in Malaysia to match those of Singapore or South Korea could increase Malaysia’s GDP by between RM6 billion and RM9 billion. That would be a significant boost to growth in the long run.
Gender diversity has become a priority agenda item for policymakers and business leaders internationally. How can gender diversity add value to your organisation? How can it add or improve business and financial performance?
- In its 2011 research in the US, Catalyst found a 26% difference in return on invested capital between companies with 19-44% women on their boards and those companies with zero women directors.
- McKinsey’s own Women Matter research has delivered consistently similar results which suggest a correlation between the number of women in senior positions and corporate performance.
- McKinsey has also found that three or more women at the top correlates with stronger financial performance and higher organization “health”, broader leadership capabilities, improved decision-making and corporate governance, a wider talent pool and greater market responsiveness
- Companies with more than 3 women at the top also score better in our survey results on organizational health markers like work environment and values; coordination and control and direction.
- Recently, research by Corston Smith Asia on the role of women on boards in 5 ASEAN countries, including Malaysia, also revealed similar findings.
Does your organisation have any policy or KPIs emphasising on female talents? What systems or tools has your organisation put in place to attract women on career hiatus to rejoin the workforce? Nowadays, flexible work arrangements (FWA) and support
facilities are preferred by women with families. Does your organisation provide these? If yes, can you share more details on these? If not, can you share your and your organisation’s view on FWA and support facilities? Would you propose and implement any of the FWA or support facilities in your organisation? If you do, which will your management team support to take-up?
- McKinsey is a strong advocate of the benefits of gender diversity for companies globally - and works actively to promote women's leadrship within our own organization.
- We place priority on strategies to recruit and retain the best talent – including mwomen. And we make it clear that gender diversity is a priority of senior management and for the Firm as a whole.
- We have a range of programs including flexible working hours, part time programs and extended leave provisions designed to assist women with work-life balance issues. We also place a premium on mentoring and development of our women at every level.
What do you think are the key factors to encourage women to aspire to leadership and climb the career ladder? Can you share tools or systems that you have implemented successfully in-house that cater to leadership in women? On the other hand, there are companies that have equal opportunity tools and systems in place. Despite these, barriers to opportunity may still exist due to women’s own issues and biases, for example lack of confidence to compete together with men for job progression and opportunities, or their impression that men will be favoured or chosen to lead. How does your organisation manage or dismantle these barriers? What can we do together to address this?
- Our research shows that you need what we call an “eco-system” of measures to drive progress on gender diversity. That said, one of the most important factors we see in companies that have been successful in increasing women’s leadership is commitment from the CEO and senior management (in Asia they are still predominantly male)
- The 2012 Women Matter: An Asian Perspective Report showed that only 12 percent of companies have in place a balanced gender diversity program to promote women’s participation at more senior levels. Very few appeared to have strong commitment from the CEO and other senior executives. Only 15 percent of survey respondents said that the CEO and executive teams in their companies visibly monitored progress in gender diversity programs.
- Other programmes that have worked well and may not require significant cost investment (but does need time commitment) include
- mentoring, especially of high potential talent. This is especially important in helping women to see their potential and develop their skills and abilities within a nurturing environment
- flexi-time and part-time programmes, e.g., 3 or 4 day work weeks, jobsharing
- working from home (telecommuting) which has been shown to increase employee morale and overall performance – whether for male or female employees
- developing women's individual leadership capabilities through dedicated capability building programmes, whether targeted at the skills they need to perform their tasks, or towards “soft-skills” like time management, communications and facilitating meetings
- These are of course, not new ideas. They have been mooted time and again by many stakeholders. Perhaps the question that we need to be asking is – how do we make it easier for companies to implement such policies, and in the Malaysian context, how do we make it acceptable for employees to be working remotely/flexibly while ensuring quality of deliverables, and productivity
Our Government has implemented policies and even provided funds and assistance to organisations in order to retain and call back women to re-join the workforce. In line with this objective, our Prime Minister has announced the Double Tax Incentive for compliant companies which will be launched in 2013, fund allocation and assistance for child care centres at organisations, a microsite to connect women with companies that have jobs with flexible work arrangements and support facilities, and other incentives are in the pipeline. What else can the government do to encourage companies to attract and retain women in the workforce?
- The first thing to do, is to establish recognition that this is truly a talent issue, and not just a “women” issue. Across the country we are facing a shortage of skilled talent - that is not surprising given that while more than half of our university graduates are women, many of them are not staying and growing in the workforce.
- Some examples from countries that have put this issue front and centre on the talent agenda include:
- Australia: “Male Champions of Change” Initiative in 2011 where 10 of Australia’s leading Male CEOs plus two Non-Executive Board of Directors joined a team or corporate leaders working together to advance the issue of
women leadership – because they recognise that it is a talent issue that needs to be addressed; this strategy has been emulated in New Zealand and South Africa
- USA: Workplace awards, e.g., McKinsey is consistently ranked highly in
the 100 Best Places for Working Mums in the USA
- Australia / South Africa: introduced requirements for reporting on gender diversity as part of corporate governance, similar to Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); when companies have to report on
an issue, they often have to actually do something about it, so that they can report positively
- Singapore: the government through the Ministry of Manpower introduced programmes to support workplaces, e.g., Flexiworks! Programme offers a grant of up to SGD 100k to workplaces that hire new workers on flexible
arrangements; the Work-life-works Fund sets aside SGD 10 mn to help organisations integrate work-life balancing initiatives; also offers a Working Mother Child Relief to help mothers offset the cost of childcare