‘WOMEN SHOULD NOT BE ON BOARDS JUST TO MAKE UP NUMBERS’
Merit still plays a huge part in upward career projection, says Sharifah
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.