Progress is slower than in government sector, says Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil

KUALA LUMPUR: Efforts to have at least 30 per cent women at the decision-making level in the corporate sector is moving at a slow pace, and this has irked Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

The Wanita Barisan Nasional chief was baffled why the effort to include more women in the boardroom was slow despite the pool of talented women leaders in the private sector.

“I think the progress is slower (compared with the achievement made in the government sector).

“We cannot wait any longer for qualified women to be given deserving positions.

“Unfortunately, gender-related issues in Malaysia are taking longer (to be solved) than it should,” said Shahrizat in an exclusive interview with the New Straits Times Press.

It was reported last year that Bursa Malaysia data showed that the Q3 2017 statistics indicated the percentage of Top 100 companies that have 30 per cent women representation had increased to 19.1 per cent last year from 16.6 per cent at the end of the previous year.

She believed the slow progress made by private companies to empower more women as decision-makers was due to the absence of a law to compel the corporate sector to support the effort.

“It is a norm in Malaysia that an effort will only get the support of individuals and organisations when there are laws compelling them to do so.

“I know other countries have legislation that promote gender equality (in the private sector).”

She recalled that when she was women and family development minister, she had pushed for amendments to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution to ensure that there would be no gender discrimination in Malaysia.

The move, which she described as her legacy, had led to the birth of many women-friendly policies, including the policy to have 30 per cent women as decision makers in the government.

Alhamdulillah, it has worked very well. Prior to the implementation of the policy, there was only one female secretary-general.

“By the time I left the ministry, there were no fewer than five women leaders helming ministries in the government.

“That is why I am a strong advocate of laws and policies,” said Shahrizat, who was a former magistrate for three years.

She added that she supported the move by the government to introduce a new law, the Gender Equality Act, to deal with discrimination against women.

“We, however, must conduct a thorough studies (when formulating the law).

“We must make sure that any law that we want to promulgate must be implemented in the spirit of the constitution.”

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