The prime minister underscored that for Malaysia to progress meaningfully, no one should be left behind – especially women.
“We certainly want Malaysia to rise to the heights of glory and we’re thankful for the support, encouragement and leadership shown by the women of Malaysia,” he said when opening the international conference on Women in Politics 2017 (WIPKL) here today organised in conjunction with the Dec 5-9 UMNO general assembly.
The UMNO president noted that the party itself had long relied on its women’s wing for maintaining grassroots relationships, particularly in the rural areas.
“And that’s why Wanita UMNO is known as the backbone of the party,” Najib said of the UMNO women’s component on which the party relies heavily for electoral groundwork and campaigning as well as undertaking people-centred initiatives.
Present at the event which carried the theme ‘Women and Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0 : Leadership and Substantive Equality’ were Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and WIPKL 2017 chairman and Wanita UMNO chief Tan Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
Najib further said that the government would like to see the participation of more women in politics as their presence would better reflect the electorate and make the political process more inclusive, thus strengthening democracy.
The prime minister said the government was eyeing not less than 30 per cent of senators in the Dewan Negara comprising women.
I would like to see the proposal go through. That’s why I hope I can get a strong mandate in this upcoming election (to push it through), he said.
Malaysia, he said, had a strong track record when it came to women’s rights, with women filling 35 per cent of top management posts in the country.
In fact, I’m told that if the police and military services are excluded, women officers make up the majority of the civil service, at 57.5 per cent. So we’re heading in the right direction but we want to go further, especially at the higher levels, Najib said.
On the target of women making up 30 per cent of the boards of public listed companies (PLCs), he said: I’ve warned that from next year, the government will name and shame PLCs which don’t have women as board members. They may, I have warned, not be given government contracts.
Najib explained that this strategy to increase the number of women in top management posts and on company boards was about strengthening capability.
It’s not just a gender issue, nor is it just about ensuring our culture and practices are non-discriminatory. It’s ultimately also about productivity, he said.
Najib noted that since he took office in 2009, the female labour force participation rate had increased from 46 per cent to 54.3 per cent in 2016 ” which meant that there were over 700,000 more women in the workforce.
It’s vital that we make the most of IR 4.0 by encouraging and nurturing more women entrepreneurs, because technological advances today have made the playing field much more level for women, he said.