Merit still plays a huge part in up­ward ca­reer pro­jec­tion, says Shar­i­fah

New Straits Times - - Business / News - LIDIANA ROSLI KUALA LUMPUR lidiana@nst.com.my

THERE are more ‘”sig­nif­i­cant” op­por­tu­ni­ties for women now within the Malaysian cor­po­rate land­scape, but merit still plays a huge part in their up­ward ca­reer pro­jec­tion.

Petro­liam Na­sional Bhd (Petronas) di­rec­tor Datuk Seri Shar­i­fah Sofi­anny Syed Hus­sain said “now, more than ever, was the time for women to prove their worth” as more than just “a num­ber” in the cor­po­rate world.

“Yes, the es­tab­lish­ment of the 30 per cent club is great for women as now, it is part of the gov­ern­ment’s agenda to en­sure 30 per cent women rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the board of top com­pa­nies,” said Shar­i­fah at May­bank In­vest­ment Bank Bhd’s (May­bank IB) Lead­ers Con­ver­sa­tion Se­ries, here, re­cently.

“How­ever, it should not be just about num­bers, but merit. It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to put the right woman on the right board, and not for the sake of the num­bers.

“I am on the board of Petronas with Tan Sri Zari­nah An­war and I can as­sure you nei­ther of us is there just as a num­ber.”

Zari­nah was chair­man of the Se­cu­ri­ties Com­mis­sion for six years. She also held var­i­ous roles within Shell Malaysia dur­ing her 22 years with the com­pany.

Shar­i­fah, mean­while, was May­bank IB’s head of in­sti­tu­tional eq­ui­ties be­fore be­ing ap­pointed as an in­de­pen­dent non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and board mem­ber of Petronas in 2015.

Prior to join­ing May­bank IB, Shar­i­fah was with Shell Malaysia for 11 years where she held var­i­ous au­dit­ing and ac­coun­tancy roles.

She said hard work alone was not the rea­son she was on the board of Malaysia’s only Fortune 500 com­pany.

“There are two main cur­ren­cies for any­one, not only for women, to climb the cor­po­rate lad­der. The first is your per­for­mance cur­rency and the sec­ond your so­cial cur­rency.

“In the early years, per­for­mance cur­rency is the one that would open doors for you, but to open even big­ger doors, you need to have a strong so­cial cur­rency and this is where your pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ships would be help­ful,” she said.

How­ever, Shar­i­fah stressed that one must al­ways be sin­cere in de­vel­op­ing th­ese re­la­tion­ships.

“You need to like to net­work be­cause the more you en­joy it, it will man­i­fest as you go up the or­gan­i­sa­tion. How­ever, if you do it for the sake of your key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tor (KPI) alone, then it will show.”

Shar­i­fah also called on women to have more courage and con­fi­dence in the work­place.

“A lot of women have great com­pe­tency, but lack­ing the courage and con­fi­dence to speak up. This has to change. We know we are com­pe­tent, we know we are per­form­ing so we must have the courage and the con­fi­dence to speak up, ei­ther for a pro­mo­tion or a pro­posal.”

Shar­i­fah ended the con­ver­sa­tion with a re­minder: “There will al­ways be pol­i­tics. Rise above it and ig­nore the voices that will put you down. Re­spond in due time as you see fit but re­mem­ber that not say­ing any­thing is also a way of re­spond­ing. Some­times, si­lence is more pow­er­ful than words.”

One of the gov­ern­ment’s tar­get out­lined in the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011 to 2015) was for women to hold at least 30 per cent of all de­ci­sion-mak­ing po­si­tions by 2015.


Petronas di­rec­tor Datuk Seri Shar­i­fah Sofi­anny urges women to have more courage and con­fi­dence in the work­place.

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