The Women Rocking Top Glove: When Glass Ceilings are Broken

“You know there was a Harvard University study that was recently published. It is an analysis of the perception that people have had of the way in which the crises was managed and there is an overwhelming response that shows, again, it’s a perception that people have had that shows that they feel that women have had a better way to deal with the pandemic. Now, is it to say that they as ———– have done a better job? Probably not. Is it to say they had attributes like empathy, such as appreciating the fear that people have, such as reaching out that was dominant in their way of dealing with the crisis? Probably so. There are so few women than men actually in charge of those issues… the fact that many of them have been successful is also an indication that they are pretty damn good” – Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, in an interview with The Economist in March 2021.

Poignant yet touching words. As the world commemorated yet another International Women’s Day on the 8th of March 2021 , the day continues to mean different things to different women:  for champions of suffragettes, it may mean the role of women in a world where democracy itself is being questioned; for women living in slums across the world, making ends meet silently they may yearn for a life of greater purpose and respect, a life where they had more choices; in the corridors of power across boardrooms and in politics, it may be greater empowerment, equal pay and treatment as their male colleagues and greater diversity notwithstanding. The list may be many, and long depending on who one speaks to, and what their needs are. Locally for instance, we still face a situation where Malaysian women cannot automatically pass on their citizenship status to their children unlike their husband. Further, we still debate if women who have contributed to the economy and building of a nation are honoured comparably to their male counterparts. 

It is here that some recent developments in corporate Malaysia and one being recent developments in Top Glove Corporation Bhd. (Top Glove) caught my interest.   Top Glove announced many new developments and achievements recently. One key area that gets missed is their board composition. As I write this, their current board comprise of 5 women, and that is five of a 12-member board. The women making waves in Top Glove’s board are:

  1. Puan Sri Tong Siew Bee : Non Independent Non-Executive Director 
  2. Datuk Noripah Binti Kamso: Independent Non-Executive Director
  3. Sharmila Sekarajasekaran: Independent Non-Executive Director
  4. Datuk Dr. Norma Mansor: Independent Non-Executive Director
  5. Azrina Binti Arshad: Independent Non-Executive Director

It should come as no surprise that a visionary company like Top Glove Corporation Bhd. named one of the winners in the Brand of the Year for 2020/2021 at the World Branding Forum held in London (The Edge, 12 March 2021), has increased women participation on its board. Top Glove is the world’s largest manufacturer of gloves, with 47 manufacturing facilities in Malaysia, ThailandChina, and Vietnam. Traditionally perceived as the stomping ground of men, this manufacturing company listed on Bursa Malaysia and on Singapore Stock Exchange, believes that the natural way forward in charting a new path across new ‘normals’ is to embrace the reality that women add invaluable diversity and significance to the success of a company. Top Glove increased the participation of women on its board from one in 2001, to three in 2015, and today, five out of its 12-member board (which is 41.7 per cent) are women, surpassing Bursa’s target of 30 per cent women on the boards of corporations. Not only has Top Glove increased participation of its women, it added two extra board committees, on par with global best practices, which are chaired by women – its Risk Management and Sustainability Board Committees. Notably also, Top Glove’s Nomination and Remuneration Committee is also headed by a woman.  

“File:Entrance to Top Glove Tower.jpg” by Koala83920 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

From a well-known barrister to an accomplished investment banker, to a highly regarded economist and architect as well as a computer scientist, the women on the board of Top Glove are setting a new trend in this Malaysian based global company. These women are front and center in taking a manufacturing company to its next echelon of growth, not just in Malaysia but globally. Further, in its 2020 Annual Report, Top Glove shared that 53 per cent of its staff in leadership position are women. So the whole notion of men on factory floors is a misnomer where Top Glove is concerned. Top Glove is not just making waves, it has broken the glass ceiling beyond the targets set! And they are not alone I hasten to add. Many more Malaysian corporations are heading in this direction. We need more women in leadership roles in our corridors of power, in the civil service and amongst our legislators too.

This year’s theme is: “Women in leadership. Achieving an equal future post pandemic “. I cannot but ask why WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP continues to be topical in a pre and post pandemic, pre, during and post modernised worlds.  Are words like “empowerment” and “gender biases” new terms? Or have these realities always existed only clothed in different monikers and expressions? Why the continued reservations to women in leadership, when in countries like Malaysia for instance, we have more women in tertiary education than men? 

A day such as this tells us over half of the world’s population are still grappling with their gender roles within the realms of a world that is supposed to provide for both. Within the post modernised world of the 21st century, within the remits of a world that prides itself of  automation, sustainability and many more such buzz words, how can any civilisation, never mind this which we live in, sustain the doors of success when one half of its population  is still fighting for its space, still requiring quotas so that they can claim their rightful place in the world and are  still defining ownership of their status in the society they live in? 

Why are we still not convinced of women in positions of responsibilities, when we inadvertently trust them to carry us in their bodies when we did not even know the world? We trusted them to feed us, and by and large nurture us to adulthood. Yet when it comes of the leather spaces of boardrooms and decision-making floors, they are scarce, almost non-existent. The World Economic Forum shows that countries with more gender equality are those countries with strong established democratic institutions. The core values of democracy and gender equality are therefore fundamental to reducing corruption, enhancing sustainable development, and the well-being be it of a family, a company or a nation.

In 2020 roughly 8 per cent of all Fortune 500 companies are led by women, raising the number of women leading Fortune 500 companies to 41 by end of 2020. This is an improvement from the 33 companies in 2019 and 24 in 2018. 20 years ago there were just two companies on the list that were run by women, according to Fortune. These numbers are staggeringly low for a 21st century reality.

The hand that rocks the cradle should be the hands that rule the world too. My brother often says that my mother would make an awesome Finance Minister and my aunties would have made great CEOs. Alas they never had the space, never mind the opportunities to venture that path. And maybe, just maybe we will all see a different world to the one we live in today if we encouraged  more women in important leadership positions unreservedly. 

Our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, mothers- and daughters-in-law, granddaughters, aunties and nieces shaped our value system directly and/or indirectly. They and the many women who have gone before us have moulded the very value system we brought into the lives we live today.   If in our souls we believe it was these moments with these women that shaped us, then we each must open the heavy doors of opportunities to women from all walks of lives even when we may grapple with silent gender biases and preconceptions. We must create opportunities by ensuring the square pegs does fit the circle and not use that as an excuse to exclude. We must thrive on differences, and diversity. We must honour not in the name of tokenism and quotas, rather that half of the population of this civilisation has equal responsibility in building a strong civilisation.  

Why? In the final analysis the bell does toll for all of us and not just some of us. In the final analysis also, we cannot have sustainable success in any civilisation, when one part of it continues to grapple its worth every year.

Firoz writes in her free time. She has done a lot of work in public and private sector transformation.



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“You know there was a Harvard University study that was recently published. It is an analysis of the perception that people have had of the way in which the crises was managed and there is an overwhelming response that shows, again, it’s a perception that people have had that shows that they feel that women have had a better way to deal with the pandemic. Now, is it to say that they as ----------- have done a better job? Probably not. Is it to say they had attributes like empathy, such as appreciating the fear that people have, such as...

“You know there was a Harvard University study that was recently published. It is an analysis of the perception that people have had of the way in which the crises was managed and there is an overwhelming response that shows, again, it’s a perception that people have had that shows that they feel that women have had a better way to deal with the pandemic. Now, is it to say that they as ———– have done a better job? Probably not. Is it to say they had attributes like empathy, such as appreciating the fear that people have, such as reaching out that was dominant in their way of dealing with the crisis? Probably so. There are so few women than men actually in charge of those issues… the fact that many of them have been successful is also an indication that they are pretty damn good” – Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, in an interview with The Economist in March 2021.

Poignant yet touching words. As the world commemorated yet another International Women’s Day on the 8th of March 2021 , the day continues to mean different things to different women:  for champions of suffragettes, it may mean the role of women in a world where democracy itself is being questioned; for women living in slums across the world, making ends meet silently they may yearn for a life of greater purpose and respect, a life where they had more choices; in the corridors of power across boardrooms and in politics, it may be greater empowerment, equal pay and treatment as their male colleagues and greater diversity notwithstanding. The list may be many, and long depending on who one speaks to, and what their needs are. Locally for instance, we still face a situation where Malaysian women cannot automatically pass on their citizenship status to their children unlike their husband. Further, we still debate if women who have contributed to the economy and building of a nation are honoured comparably to their male counterparts. 

It is here that some recent developments in corporate Malaysia and one being recent developments in Top Glove Corporation Bhd. (Top Glove) caught my interest.   Top Glove announced many new developments and achievements recently. One key area that gets missed is their board composition. As I write this, their current board comprise of 5 women, and that is five of a 12-member board. The women making waves in Top Glove’s board are:

  1. Puan Sri Tong Siew Bee : Non Independent Non-Executive Director 
  2. Datuk Noripah Binti Kamso: Independent Non-Executive Director
  3. Sharmila Sekarajasekaran: Independent Non-Executive Director
  4. Datuk Dr. Norma Mansor: Independent Non-Executive Director
  5. Azrina Binti Arshad: Independent Non-Executive Director

It should come as no surprise that a visionary company like Top Glove Corporation Bhd. named one of the winners in the Brand of the Year for 2020/2021 at the World Branding Forum held in London (The Edge, 12 March 2021), has increased women participation on its board. Top Glove is the world’s largest manufacturer of gloves, with 47 manufacturing facilities in Malaysia, ThailandChina, and Vietnam. Traditionally perceived as the stomping ground of men, this manufacturing company listed on Bursa Malaysia and on Singapore Stock Exchange, believes that the natural way forward in charting a new path across new ‘normals’ is to embrace the reality that women add invaluable diversity and significance to the success of a company. Top Glove increased the participation of women on its board from one in 2001, to three in 2015, and today, five out of its 12-member board (which is 41.7 per cent) are women, surpassing Bursa’s target of 30 per cent women on the boards of corporations. Not only has Top Glove increased participation of its women, it added two extra board committees, on par with global best practices, which are chaired by women – its Risk Management and Sustainability Board Committees. Notably also, Top Glove’s Nomination and Remuneration Committee is also headed by a woman.  

“File:Entrance to Top Glove Tower.jpg” by Koala83920 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

From a well-known barrister to an accomplished investment banker, to a highly regarded economist and architect as well as a computer scientist, the women on the board of Top Glove are setting a new trend in this Malaysian based global company. These women are front and center in taking a manufacturing company to its next echelon of growth, not just in Malaysia but globally. Further, in its 2020 Annual Report, Top Glove shared that 53 per cent of its staff in leadership position are women. So the whole notion of men on factory floors is a misnomer where Top Glove is concerned. Top Glove is not just making waves, it has broken the glass ceiling beyond the targets set! And they are not alone I hasten to add. Many more Malaysian corporations are heading in this direction. We need more women in leadership roles in our corridors of power, in the civil service and amongst our legislators too.

This year’s theme is: “Women in leadership. Achieving an equal future post pandemic “. I cannot but ask why WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP continues to be topical in a pre and post pandemic, pre, during and post modernised worlds.  Are words like “empowerment” and “gender biases” new terms? Or have these realities always existed only clothed in different monikers and expressions? Why the continued reservations to women in leadership, when in countries like Malaysia for instance, we have more women in tertiary education than men? 

A day such as this tells us over half of the world’s population are still grappling with their gender roles within the realms of a world that is supposed to provide for both. Within the post modernised world of the 21st century, within the remits of a world that prides itself of  automation, sustainability and many more such buzz words, how can any civilisation, never mind this which we live in, sustain the doors of success when one half of its population  is still fighting for its space, still requiring quotas so that they can claim their rightful place in the world and are  still defining ownership of their status in the society they live in? 

Why are we still not convinced of women in positions of responsibilities, when we inadvertently trust them to carry us in their bodies when we did not even know the world? We trusted them to feed us, and by and large nurture us to adulthood. Yet when it comes of the leather spaces of boardrooms and decision-making floors, they are scarce, almost non-existent. The World Economic Forum shows that countries with more gender equality are those countries with strong established democratic institutions. The core values of democracy and gender equality are therefore fundamental to reducing corruption, enhancing sustainable development, and the well-being be it of a family, a company or a nation.

In 2020 roughly 8 per cent of all Fortune 500 companies are led by women, raising the number of women leading Fortune 500 companies to 41 by end of 2020. This is an improvement from the 33 companies in 2019 and 24 in 2018. 20 years ago there were just two companies on the list that were run by women, according to Fortune. These numbers are staggeringly low for a 21st century reality.

The hand that rocks the cradle should be the hands that rule the world too. My brother often says that my mother would make an awesome Finance Minister and my aunties would have made great CEOs. Alas they never had the space, never mind the opportunities to venture that path. And maybe, just maybe we will all see a different world to the one we live in today if we encouraged  more women in important leadership positions unreservedly. 

Our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, mothers- and daughters-in-law, granddaughters, aunties and nieces shaped our value system directly and/or indirectly. They and the many women who have gone before us have moulded the very value system we brought into the lives we live today.   If in our souls we believe it was these moments with these women that shaped us, then we each must open the heavy doors of opportunities to women from all walks of lives even when we may grapple with silent gender biases and preconceptions. We must create opportunities by ensuring the square pegs does fit the circle and not use that as an excuse to exclude. We must thrive on differences, and diversity. We must honour not in the name of tokenism and quotas, rather that half of the population of this civilisation has equal responsibility in building a strong civilisation.  

Why? In the final analysis the bell does toll for all of us and not just some of us. In the final analysis also, we cannot have sustainable success in any civilisation, when one part of it continues to grapple its worth every year.

Firoz writes in her free time. She has done a lot of work in public and private sector transformation.



Support ASEAN news

Investvine has been a consistent voice in ASEAN news for more than a decade. From breaking news to exclusive interviews with key ASEAN leaders, we have brought you factual and engaging reports – the stories that matter, free of charge.

Like many news organisations, we are striving to survive in an age of reduced advertising and biased journalism. Our mission is to rise above today’s challenges and chart tomorrow’s world with clear, dependable reporting.

Support us now with a donation of your choosing. Your contribution will help us shine a light on important ASEAN stories, reach more people and lift the manifold voices of this dynamic, influential region.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $10.00

 

 

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