Leveraging diversity in the workplace
Malaysia’s multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society provides one of the most conducive environments for diversity. For generations, people of different races, religions and cultures have intermingled and interacted with one another, creating a harmonious blend that serves to strengthen our economy.
To tackle the modern challenges of globalisation, various strategies are adopted to promote and encourage companies to improve on their diversity policies with regards to ethnicity, gender and age.
Beginning January 2015, Bursa Malaysia has required all listed companies to establish and disclose in their annual reports their diversity policies, covering gender, ethnicity and age for board and management.
The sharing of best practices in managing and supporting diversity in the workplace is aimed to further strengthen the application of the diversity policies.
To incentivise the adoption of diversity policies in Corporate Malaysia, Talent Corporation Malaysia (TalentCorp) supported several awards for companies that demonstrate exemplary effort in their diversity policies such as the National Annual Corporate Report Awards (NACRA) and the ACCA Malaysia Sustainability Reporting Awards (MaSRA), by introducing new awards for best practices in diversity and inclusion.
Diversity in Malaysia companies: Where do we stand?
In a collaboration with PwC Malaysia, TalentCorp has recently published the findings of its “Diversity in the Workplace 2015” survey. The survey provides us with the current diversity landscape in Corporate Malaysia.
The survey was derived from 130 respondents including 67 of the largest 100 listed companies by market capitalisation, representing 70% of Bursa’s total market capitalisation.
While women make up 60% of local university graduates according to the World Bank Malaysian Economic Monitor, the National Female Labour Force Participation Rate stands at 53.6% as at 2014, which is one of the lowest in the region.
The survey shows that men still outnumber women in top management across various industries.
Citing various reasons for leaving the workforce such as starting a family, many women face problems re-entering the labour force after a long hiatus, thus hurting their career prospects.
Women make up a portion of the workforce that is just as large as that of men. Sidelining women, especially those who seek work-life balance or a more family-friendly work environment, would lead to a narrowing of the talent pool available to employers.
International experience suggests flexible work arrangements (FWA) is an effective tool to retain women talent. However, only a minority of companies implement FWA or plan to enhance work-life practices.
Additionally, the growing dominance of women as a consumer base also makes the input of women in leadership positions crucial.
A mix-gendered workforce could offer different viewpoints, ideas and market insights which enable better problem-solving to gain a competitive advantage in serving the increasingly diverse customer base.
Women account for an average of 22% of top management, and this percentage varies significantly by sector (see Figure 3).
Diversity moving forward
While some companies are striving towards diversity, the survey shows that much remains to be done to create a workplace that is less stratified and more inclusive, as the gender, ethnic and age make-up of the Malaysian population is still not well-reflected in the corporate environment.
As we march towards a high-income economy, initiatives that promote diversity will continue to be improved and perfected upon so that we can achieve a prosperous and socially just future.
Our mix of religion and ethnicities could have divided us, instead our diversity has strengthened us. In line with this spirit, Bursa Malaysia has made disclosure of diversity policy mandatory for listed companies beginning 2015 and has encouraged disclosure on composition of workforce.”
– Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak