KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has called for better representation of gender, ethnicity and age in the Malaysian corporate sector.
He would also like to see a greater number of Malaysian-listed companies producing sustainability reports that include workforce composition such as ethnicity, age and gender.
“Currently, listed companies are required to disclose in their annual report the gender diversity policies, particularly in the context of board selection.
“In line with the objective of inclusiveness in the New Economic Model, which emphasises diversity as a source of strength and the promotion of sustainability and social responsible investments (SRIs) going forward, we will broaden the scope for listed companies to establish and disclose their diversity policies, covering gender, ethnicity and age for board and management,” Najib said in his speech at a dialogue organised by the Economic Planning Unit and the Securities Commission (SC).
The closed-door event was attended by 50 corporate leaders representing the country’s top market-capitalised public-listed companies and government-linked investment companies.
Najib said while Malaysia had made good progress in achieving overall diversity in its workforce, greater efforts were needed to enhance diversity at the leadership and top-management levels.
“We are making good progress in diversity. The Female Labour Participation Rate (FLPR) in 2012 was 49.5%, which basically means that just under half of women of working age are employed.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that Malaysia’s FLPR has increased to 52.4% in 2013,” Najib said.
“This puts us very much on track to achieve the target of 55% by 2015.”
Based on a recent survey by Talent Corp Malaysia Bhd of listed companies, overall diversity is commendable, with 38% representation of women, 67% aged 40 and below and an ethnic composition mirroring the national population, with 66% of the workforce being bumiputra.
The survey, however, suggested the need for greater efforts to improve diversity at top management, with representation of only 24% women, 18% aged 40 and below and only 34% bumiputra.
Based on the 2013 data, Najib said only 8% of board members of all listed companies were women against the Government’s target of 30% by 2016.
On the other hand, women comprised 33% of top positions in Government.
Najib said sovereign wealth and pension funds around the world had spearheaded the sustainability agenda by choosing more and more to invest in sustainable companies and instruments, as these investments not only expanded the diversity but also provided financial and social returns.
“As such, in Budget 2014, I announced that ValueCap will allocate RM1bil for sustainable and responsible investing. In due course, other government-related funds will emulate this, in terms of providing greater focus on sustainability for investments,” Najib said.
In addition, he said the SC had provided a facilitative environment for the development of the Islamic capital market and would continue to intensify efforts to promote SRI in Malaysia.
“In line with this, in Budget 2014, I had announced that two new capital market products will be introduced to further support our national commitment in the sustainability agenda,” Najib added.
Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar said positive feedback from corporate leaders was received in the two-hour closed-door meeting.
He added that the corporate leaders also highlighted some challenges in promoting diversity at the workplace.
“One example is child care or nurseries at the workplace. For many companies that want to provide child care, it must be on the ground floor, and most companies find it difficult as they are located in city areas,” Wahid said.
Asked if the promotion of diversity at the workplace would incur more cost to business, Wahid said it would not, and that it was more cost to benefit, as employees would give more in return to the company.