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There is a Lack of Women Leaders at the Highest Management Levels of Malaysia’s eCommerce Market

27 July 2018 | Jeremy Chew

On the 21st of May 2018, Malaysia made history as Dr. Wan Azizah was officially made as the first women deputy prime minister in Malaysia. This event is significant because Dr. Wan Azizah is one of a very few female leaders in Southeast Asia to be sworn in as a deputy prime minister. This was also an important milestone as various studies have shown that organisations are more likely to thrive when there is an adequate representation of genders.

However, a recent study conducted by iPrice found a lack of women leaders the highest management levels of Malaysia’s e-commerce market. The study was derived by analysing hundreds of top & mid-management personnel from Malaysia’s 15 most visited e-commerce platforms on the Map of E-commerce.

The Number of Women in C-Levels are Significantly Lower in Malaysia When Compared to Other Southeast Asian Countries

Our study found that men held 91% of C-level positions (founders, directors, chiefs, c-level) while only 9% were held by women. The disparity in Malaysia is much larger when compared to other Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Philippines & Vietnam. Vietnam & Philippines had the highest number of women in C-level positions at 23% & 21%.

Among the few women that holds a C-level positions in Malaysia were Ethel Hoong, Director of Online Sales at Ezbuy, Swee Lin Liew, Executive Director at Astro GoShop & Vivy Yusof, the founder of Fashion Valet.

With the e-commerce industry in Malaysia predicted to be worth RM33 billion (US$ 8 billion) by 2025, e-commerce businesses in the country need to overcome the gender disparity. Women currently hold a big share of Malaysia’s demographic. As of Q1 2018, the Department of Statistics Malaysia noted that 48% of the country’s population are women & men at 52%. A separate report by the Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission highlighted that 57% of online shoppers are women.

As such, their views should be considered at vital decision-making stages. People crafting technology have the power to influence how it works & it requires the minds of various demographic to maximise its effectiveness to all consumers. Hence, gender diversity is important for the people who make & use technology.

No Lack of Women at Mid-Management Levels

As important as women are in the e-commerce business, there is no lack of women in mid-management levels. In Malaysia’s top e-commerce platforms, 25% of women held Senior Vice President (SVP) positions, 23% held Vice President (VP) positions & 48% held Head career levels. While women are well represented at mid-management levels, very few carried on to reach the highest management levels.

This was echoed by Hannah Yeoh, the Deputy Women, Family & Community Development Minister at the 2018 Asean Mechanical & Electrical Engineering Show on July 2018. Yeoh stated that the number of women taking up tertiary education courses is increasing but this is not reflected in higher level positions at the workplace.

To reduce the disparity of women on these levels, Yeoh stated that there is a need to empower the rights of women & recognise the importance of their roles. The deputy minister went on to state that the private sector should emulate the Government’s announcement to open childcare centres in every office in 2019.

Efforts E-commerce Businesses Need to Undertake to Reduce the Disparity of Women at Top Management Levels

If e-commerce platforms are serious in realising the RM33 billion (AS$ 8 billion) as predicted by Google & Temasek, businesses must play an active role in championing gender diversity. In the United Kingdom, the number of women on boards increased from 12% in 2010 to 26% in 2017 by having prominent chairmen championing for diversity within the company & externally.

To bridge this gap, e-commerce businesses must first acknowledge the lack of women at top management levels as a real issue. The previous Government in Malaysia has set the target for public listed companies to have at least 30% women at board level by the year 2020. A similar target should be set by e-commerce businesses if they are serious in reducing the gender disparity.

Leaders of e-commerce platforms must take active steps to retain women in every stage of the corporate ladder & create management positions specifically for women. This might include adding in benefits specifically for women such as childcare services or insurance policies for women.

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