Enter the Tigresses
Female board representation in the property sector on the rise
By Joseph Wong
The number of women holding senior leadership positions in Malaysia surged to 37% last year from 31% the year before, outstripping the global figure by a whopping 6%. The positive movement of women representation into senior management is also seen in the property sector.
Beginning the year on a good start, this year will likely see a favourable growth in the number of women taking over senior positions in this industry. While there is currently no shortage of women powerhouses in the property line, the injection of new blood into the companies’ boards of directors bores well for the female counterparts.
Last year’s 37% is the highest ever recorded despite the Covid-19 pandemic affecting Malaysia’s economy. The scores were tabulated by Grant Thornton’s annual Women in Business report.
The independent assurance, tax and advisory firm reported that the Asean region also made strides, with women participating in senior leadership rising to 38%, from 35% last year.
Except for Asia Pacific, which is at 28%, every region has surpassed the crucial 30% milestone.
Grant Thornton’s research reveals higher numbers of women across operational C-suite roles in Malaysia compared to 2020, with the proportion of female chief finance officers up 12 percentage points (pp) to 41%, female chief marketing officers up 14pp to 36% and female chief information officers up 3pp to 20%.
On the downside, the proportion of women holding top executive officer positions was lower by 10%, a drop of 5pp from the 2020 figure.
Promotion among women
There were several notable elevations of women in the property sector into the director’s position. Among them were LBS Bina Group Bhd (LBS) and Knight Frank Malaysia.
For LBS, Datuk Yong Lei Choo was recently appointed as the new independent non-executive director, member of LBS’ Remuneration Committee and Risk Management Committee. She replaces Datuk Lim Tong Lee, who retired from the LBS board.
With Yong’s appointment, LBS will have two female directors on its board, which translates to a 25% female composition. The higher female composition allows for increased diversity as LBS supports the push for greater women representation in boardrooms, something that the government has been encouraging.
To add on, it is part of LBS’ increasing focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) as it creates a company guided by a robust corporate governance framework.
Commenting on the appointment, LBS executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Hock San said LBS values diversity and experience. “We have already met the mandatory requirement for female board representation in the form of Datuk Lim Mooi Pang, who has been on the LBS board since 2009.
“We are indeed pleased to have Datuk Yong Lei Choo, a veteran of the Royal Malaysian Police Force, onboard. With her experience and background, I am confident Datuk Yong will do a tremendous job in her new role, providing us with sound advice and unique viewpoint as management works to steer LBS forward. We hope our shareholders recognise our efforts in providing appropriate corporate governance oversight in LBS as we advocate for gender diversity and equality in our board,” he said.
In addition, the group also re-designation of current managing director Datuk Wira Lim Hock Guan to group managing director and chief executive officer as well as the resignation of Datuk Sri Lim Hock Seong and Lim Kim Kiat as executive directors of LBS and their subsequent appointments as deputy chief executive officers of LBS.
The resignations will streamline LBS’ board towards an equal representation of four executive directors and four independent non-executive directors, as compared to a 6:4 ratio previously. This is part of LBS’ step towards implementing a stronger and more active corporate governance structure within the group.
Earlier in the year, Amy Wong joined the independent global property consultancy Knight Frank Malaysia as their new executive director of research and consultancy.
Helming the research and consultancy team alongside Judy Ong, who is also the executive director of research and consultancy of Knight Frank Malaysia, Wong will lead the team in a wide variety of consulting projects.
Specialising in master planning development consultancy, she presents investment advisory services to local and foreign investor groups, and provides independent market reports for IPO listing submissions.
Knight Frank Malaysia managing director Sarkunan Subramaniam said her extensive experience and innate understanding of the local market would be invaluable in helping our clients make informed property decisions.
“In these unusual times, there is an even greater need to combine measured research and strategic analysis to ensure the sustainability of each real estate project,” says Amy.
Taking the lead
Should the year progress with more women taking on senior management roles, Malaysia will be one of the nations taking the lead in women representation in the workplace.
Ultimately, it is left to the Malaysian businesses to decide on the ratio. More companies are now walking the talk to recognise the importance of a gender-balanced leadership team. It is certainly encouraging to see more businesses prioritise creating an inclusive culture in their workplace.
Grant Thornton’s research has shown that the number of businesses taking this initiative has increased the highest, from 17% of businesses last year to 54% of businesses this year. This is indeed good news for the tigresses of the business world, especially in the Year of the Tiger.