THE world of business is undoubtedly male-dominated - and Malaysia is no
different. For example, of the more than 500 companies listed on the main
board of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE), not more than 10 have
women in charge of day-to-day operations.
But this minority group of women can be a force to be reckoned with.
They have shown they can deal with fussy shareholders, male directors and
stockmarket cycles with fortitude, leadership and great vision.
According to KPMG Consulting Asia, more women are being represented in
senior positions in companies. `Women are filling top positions such as
those for chief financial officers, department directors and CEOs,' says
Lilian Yap, KPMG associate director. `This landscape is set to change in
the future; one indication is the rising number of women students in
Dr Bien Mei Nien, president of the National Association of Women
Entrepreneurs of Malaysia (NAWEM), says, `Women are an important aspect of
successful businesses as they contribute 40 per cent of the workforce,
especially in the service sector where they are recognised as competent
However, it is not so much the aim of this article to point out the
disparity between the sexes. Rather, it is to highlight the achievements
and success of local women who have helped shape the business environment.
Like most of their male counterparts, many top businesswomen tend to keep
a low profile and shun publicity. Most politely turned down our request to
be interviewed. Others were too busy or simply did not respond.
So how does one measure power and success? There are women who have
shown entrepreneurial spirit and have built up listed entities. Obvious
names are Datuk Khatijah Ahmad, who built up a financial powerhouse in KAF
Bhd and Tengku Noor Zakiah Tengku Ismail who founded one of the first
universal brokers today, K&N Kenanga.
Then there are those who started business with their husbands and who
today run a significant part of the companies, such as Datin Alicia Tiah
of TA Enterprise Bhd, Datin Irene Gan of Reliance Pacific Bhd and Lim Siew
Kim of Metroplex Bhd.
Another category is those who have taken over the reins from their
fathers, such as Tan Lei Cheng of Tan & Tan Developments Bhd, Datuk Loh
Cheng Yean of Oriental Holdings Bhd and Datuk Yatina Yahaya of DRB- Hicom
We have also featured three women in government who, although not
businesswomen per se, have great influence on the country's business
environment. It is reassuring to know that even in the Asian culture, businessmen are
confident enough in their daughters' abilities to run the show.
This does not mean disparities don't exist, though. The daughters' share in a family
business is often less than that of sons. For example, in Boon Siew Sdn
Bhd (which owns 43 per cent of Oriental Holdings), the daughters' holding
companies have 11 per cent stake each, while those of the two sons have 16
per cent each.
There are, of course, numerous unsung heroines and several more to watch
in the future. Most notable is Theresa Fong, whose well-known garment
company Caelygirl (M) Sdn Bhd has a wide export market and is said to be
eyeing a listing.
Other no-less-enterprising women include Nancy Ong, Gaik Wong, Pat Liew
and Mina Cheah-Fong. Ong is managing director of Marrybrown Fried Chicken
Sdn Bhd, a local poultry brandname that managed to take on the big
players. Wong is executive director of restaurant chain Esquire Kitchen
Sdn Bhd. Liew holds the British India franchise, while Cheah- Foong is
managing director of the company that holds the franchise to The Body
There's every possibility their businesses could grow into listed
giants. Women certainly look destined to make a mark in business, if not
change the face of it.
MALAYSIAN WOMEN MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Datin Alicia Tiah
MANAGING DIRECTOR - TA ENTERPRISE BHD
Datin Irene Gan
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER - RELIANCE PACIFIC BHD
DIRECTOR - KUALA LUMPUR CITY CORPORATION BHD
MALAYSIAN PLANTATIONS BHD
Datuk Khatijah Ahmad
CHAIRMAN - KAF GROUP
Lim Siew Kim
EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN - METROPLEX BHD
Datuk Loh Cheng Yean
CHAIRMAN - ORIENTAL HOLDINGS BHD
Datuk Maznah Abdul Hamid
GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR - SECURIFORCE SDN BHD
Datin Siti Sa'diah Bakir
CHIEF EXECUTIVE - KPJ HEALTHCARE BHD
Tan Lei Cheng
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER - TAN & TAN DEVELOPMENTS BHD
Tengku Noor Zakiah
EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN - K&N KENANGA HOLDINGS BHD
Datuk Yatina Yahaya
GROUP DIRECTOR - DRB-HICOM BHD
Datuk Mohaiyani Shamsudin
MANAGING DIRECTOR - MOHAIYANI SECURITIES SDN BHD
|Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz|
Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz
INTERNATIONAL TRADE & INDUSTRY MINISTER
Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz
GOVERNOR - BANK NEGARA MALAYSIA
Dr Zaha Rina Zahari
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER - KLOFFE