GENDER EQUALITY: Appointments should be based on merit and competence.
WOMEN are not quota fillers. We should not assume that leadership roles be handed to us as part of a prescribed quota, said AirAsia X chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.
“If a woman is appointed to be a director in a public-listed company, it should be based on merit and competence.
It shouldn’t be about fulfilling the numbers. It is just demeaning to women,” she said when asked how she viewed corporates promoting inexperienced or unqualified women to heavy responsibility positions, just to avoid penalties.
This was in view of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak throwing a challenge to public-listed companies to appoint more women to be part of board of directors.
When asked to describe leadership, Rafidah said a leader is one who can command respect as she inspires, guides and motivates people around her.
Most importantly, she said, every person has his or her own circle of influence from the most basic level of family to formal structures, organisations and society at large.
“There is no pride for any woman if she reaches the pinnacle of her career, but have children who end up anti-social with negative attributes,” she said.
“Therefore, women must be leaders in their own family circles first and then move on to the workplace they serve.”
General Electric (GE) Malaysia/Brunei human resource director Sugunah Verumandy concurred with Rafidah that boardroom quotas should be used as a way of communicating change or treated as a long-term aspiration.
“I support boardroom representation as an aspirational goal. This will only work well if women equip themselves with the necessary leadership skills.
“In other words, don’t just fill numbers, but ensure these leaders have the relevant skill sets. Only then, we can all prosper,” she said.
“At GE, though we are supportive of women in the organisation, this does not mean that we base HR decisions on gender alone. We believe that women are just as capable as men. Any promotion or pay rise should be justified on merit,” she told Business Times in an interview in conjunction with the celebration of International Women’s Day.
Statements like “we need to work harder than men to prove ourselves” or “we feel the constant pressure to never make a mistake, and to continually prove our value to the company” are often heard at tea-time talks.
Asked if such comments are justified in today’s corporate
settings, Sugunah noted while women today still feel the need to prove themselves as equals to men, this is changing.
Traditionally, the role of women has rested in the home as caregivers to their families.
As women have ventured out into the workforce, many take on an added role as financial contributors.