Q&A with Nora Abd Manaf

Oct 16, 2015 1 Min Read


Female bosses are in a unique position to lean in and make a difference in how their organisations treat female employees. What are the modern solutions that an organisation can apply that empowers the women in its workforce, without alienating the men?

Some examples of good practices that we are beginning to see in Malaysia are flexi-work arrangements, telecommuting, on-site day care, and many other special initiatives that are designed to provide employees with work-life balance.

We ask Nora Abd Manaf, group chief human capital officer of Maybank, to give her take on why women leaders shoulder a unique responsibility in how women should be treated in their organisation.

What is the best thing that a woman in a leadership role can do to promote gender equality?

Nora Abd Manaf
Nora Abd Manaf

Nora Abd Manaf, group chief human capital officer of Maybank leads the bank’s people transformation programme and performance since 2009. She is also actively engaged in the country’s financial and business employers’ circles in her roles which include chairman of the Malayan Commercial Banks’ Association; chairman of the Human Resource Management & Development Group under the sponsorship of The Institute of Bankers Malaysia & Bank Negara Malaysia; vice-president of the Malaysian Employers Federation and a council member of the country’s National Labour Advisory Council.

The best thing that a woman in a leadership role can do to promote equality and inclusivity, I would have to say, is to have a strong knowledge of what the situation is within her organisation and its work climate. With that knowledge, they should have a strong personal commitment to proactively sponsor and drive initiatives to fill the gaps and complement the current infrastructure.

As a leader, you have influence and access to be able to do so. This ensures focused, targeted, real results can be quickly achieved.

Especially in organisations that are either relatively new or just beginning to roll out programmes and policies that tackle equality and inclusivity issues using data, thorough analysis of comprehensive data will steer the right decisions on what to offer and prioritise.

In Malaysia, about 50 women in every 100 are not in employment. The country’s 54% female workforce ratio is among the lowest in the region, as other countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have more than a 60% female labour participation rate. This situation exists despite there being a majority of women graduating from institutions of higher education.

Countless studies have proved that a higher rate of women’s participation in the workforce will result in higher Gross Domestic Product. Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, the target is to raise women’s participation rate from 53.6% in 2014 to 59% by 2020. To realise this, businesses need to respond and stay updated on the evolving workplace trends and demands. We need to constantly find new ways of working to attract and retain our talents and help them integrate their life and work successfully.

In Maybank Group today, I’m proud that our female workforce stands at 54% and are therefore key contributors to the organisation’s success. We have put concrete measures to accelerate our gender diversity and our efforts have exceeded global benchmarks.

Targets are incorporated in the Maybank Talent Review and Succession Planning process, where we identify and bring women talents to the surface, and successors for talent programmes, as well as to assume bigger roles.

This has resulted in our female representation in management positions growing from 38% in 2009 to 46% in 2014. Women in top management positions increased from 15.68% in 2009 to 31% in 2014 and women in the succession planning pool for critical positions increased from 19% in 2010 to 35.1% 2014.

We have in place, a People Management and Development Infrastructure that ensures true diversity and inclusion are promoted:

  • A comprehensive People Dashboard introduced since 2009 which include tracking gender representation and diversity in talents for peak performance.
  • The launch of the Group Inclusiveness and Diversity Agenda (GIDA) in March 2014 to ensure greater representation of women in leadership positions across the Group.
  • The formalisation of Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) in 2013. 67% of the population now on FWA are women. The FWA is part of the contributing factors that have resulted in the improved key retention rate from 52% in 2009 to 86% in 2014.
  • A first of its kind in Malaysia, the Maybank Tiger Cub Centre was introduced in 2013 to provide emergency childcare service for the staff of Maybank. Another example of how we ensure full inclusion is that we promote mother-child bonding, even while at work, where we have designated breastfeeding rooms for mothers.
  • The Maybank Mentoring Programme launched in 2009 is to provide focused development support to our high potential talents to accelerate their development and performance. It has paired 132 women mentees with 47 mentors from senior management.
  • The launch of Maybank Women Mentor Women Programme in 2013 to develop future leaders among women has paired women mentees with 35 mentors from senior management.
  • The Women Mentor Women Council launched in 2014 is aimed to increase the number of women in top management. The Council, however, also has a set of business targets to deliver, directly supporting business growth.

We do not alienate any one gender, but we tap on their contributions and talents and provide an environment where they are able to contribute successfully. The Women Mentor Women Council is just an example how we work as a good team in Maybank – leveraging on each other’s strengths and experiences to grow and develop ourselves.

I personally believe these provisions or benefits enable women to work at their full potential, and make substantial and lasting contributions to the organisation.

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