Adding the feminine touch to corporate decision-making

THE challenge to Corporate Malaysia to have women hold 30% of all decision-making positions in five years has drawn predictable responses from both sides.

As The Star editorial pointed out last Wednesday, “The ball is now in the court of Corporate Malaysia. To ensure that its future report card is excellent, the 30% target must become part of the corporate mission, and the search for the right women begins now.”

Targets are easy to set, though not that easy to achieve. Still, proactive companies which understand the need to be in one accord with the government of the day are always quick to fall in line.

Clever corporate strategists are able to draw up powerful “vision and mission” statements to brand themselves with the flavour of the day, while not compromising on the bottom line.

Thus, if a green image will help their branding and spur sales, then green will be in. Likewise, certain areas of corporate social responsibility are perennial favourites, especially if they entail staying in the limelight with the right people.

One can only speculate whether some of the biggest companies listed on Bursa Malaysia will be able to declare, in five years, that “At ABC, there is no such thing as a glass ceiling for the women who work with us. Ask our top decision-makers; the majority are women.”

The Government, however, intends to only persuade companies in the private sector to embrace the target rather than enact laws that will compel them to do so.

Still, I would like to suggest to Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to enlist all women to take the persuasion method further.

If it is generally believed that behind ever successful man, there is a woman, then these unseen forces should be fully harnessed to ensure more women representation in the boardroom. Their influence should not be underestimated.

Sometime back, I wrote in this column about the need for fathers, especially those in high positions, to spend more time with their children. One CEO told me that his wife cut out the article and stuck it on the fridge with the relevant paragraphs marked out.

“I have no choice. I am definitely going to spend more time with my boys,” he emailed me. I think the reason there is no Obedient Husbands Club is that husbands are generally an obedient lot.

I am all for women holding top decision-making positions because I believe God has made them to be more sensitive to issues that impact our homes and our community.

I have noticed that when it comes to the “people issues” that affect their own human resources, and in turn profit margins, companies are not so eager to jump on the bandwagon.

Imagine an enlightened company declaring that it will have creches at all its branches and that even the men will be given time off to take care of their children there. Or that at any one time, 30% of its staff can elect to work from home, because highspeed broadband has made it possible.

If more women are in charge, perhaps they will make the working world different, and more meaningful. But this will not work if the women of Corporate Malaysia simply climb the ladder to outdo the men, and if they see their staff as nothing more than economic units.

There is much debate on whether women make better bosses than men. I shall not venture into that minefield. But suffice to say that if their numbers are higher, like 30%, then I believe they will be more comfortable with using their God-endowed feminine skills to truly make a difference.

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