TITLE: Welcome Remarks by Dr Nurmazilah Dato’ Mahzan, Chief Executive Officer, Malaysian Institute of Accountants at MIA’S Women Leadership Symposium – Lead to be Equal

DATE: 05/03/2020







5 MARCH 2020 (THURSDAY), NEXUS 3, Connexion Conference & Event Centre (CCEC), Level 3A, Nexus, Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur

  • Distinguished guests
  • Ladies and Gentlemen
  1. Good morning and welcome to MIA’s inaugural Women Leadership Symposium.
  2. Many thanks to all of the women leaders who have made time to be here with us today to share their experiences on how we can all lead to be equal. We have an inspiring line-up today, featuring women of diverse occupations and achievements.
  3. Many thanks as well to everyone who made time to be here today. By being here, you are taking a step on an aspirational journey to optimise your leadership quotients across the many different areas in which you can contribute – whether in the C-suite or management, in business, in digital, in development and in nation building. This is the primary focus of today’s agenda. Congratulations for taking this step!
  4. In particular, today’s theme is directly related to how we can all be agents and leaders of the change that we want to see. In fact, the painting featured on the Symposium brochure is entitled Agents of Change by YBhg Dato’ Halimah Mohd Said. Dato’ Halimah is here with us today. The tree with long branches and deep-seated roots represents today’s woman, who acts with the courage of her convictions, values and intuition to make the most of change, not only for herself but for all the people and institutions that she supports – loved ones, family and household, friends and colleagues, and the larger society, economy and environment.
  5. Today’s Symposium is also synergistic with International Women’s Day 2020, which falls this Sunday, 8 March. The IWD2020 theme of #EachforEqual calls for strengthening and bridging gender equality, because an equal world is an enabled world. Gender equality is an imperative on the global development agenda. UN SDG 5 is Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Women and girls, everywhere, must have equal rights and opportunity, and be able to live free of violence and discrimination. Although women’s equality and empowerment are a distinct goal and one of 17 SDGs, it is considered as being integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development as women make up half of the world. In short, all the SDGs depend on the achievement of Goal 5 .
  6. By calling for women in the profession to Lead to Be Equal, we can enable greater progress and development. As women constitute over half of all accountants in Malaysia - as at to-date 54% of MIA’s members are women - we can be a tremendous force for change, growth and nation building. At MIA itself, over half of the talent is women. Women comprise a significant percentage of MIA’s Council and management team, and MIA makes conscientious efforts to recognise and reward women’s talents and contributions.
  7. Even at the global level, women are very prominent in the profession. In November 2019, IFAC, the International Federation of Accountants, of which MIA is a member body, announced its first ever female-majority Board. These women are very diverse, from Korea, Ireland, Kenya, and Nigeria. It’s a testimony to the fact that women can make it anywhere, as long as we have access and opportunity. A key change to the New NACRA awards structure is that all organisations will compete for Excellence Awards according to market capitalisation for listed companies, with a separate category for non-listed organisations. To enhance transparency, this year we also reveal the marking criteria weightage for the Excellence Awards, as a guide for better reporting.
  8. This was possible because IFAC walked the talk. IFAC has committed to improve gender balance on its Board and committees over the past decade. Thanks to its efforts to conduct dedicated and ongoing outreach to attract a diverse slate of candidates, with a particular focus on gender diversity, 12 of IFAC’s 23-member Board are now women.
  9. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s Symposium is part of MIA’s diverse training and professional education offerings, which are carefully designed to build capacity and competencies. As of 2019, MIA delivered close to 900 programmes on a diverse range of relevant topics – ranging from governance to digital transformation to board preparation for women leaders to technical. We are acknowledged by IFAC as a leader and global benchmark for professional development and education for accountants.
  10. Today’s agenda is special and empowering because it focuses on many areas in which we would like to see women optimise their leadership intelligence and potential – in boards, corporate governance and organisational leadership; entrepreneurship, business and investment; social responsibility and development; and of course, technology.
  11. Boards and governance are a key area where MIA believes that women accountants can really make a difference. Malaysia aspires to be the first ASEAN country to achieve at least 30% women directors on the boards of the top 100 PLCs by 2020. Can we make this target by this year? According to Bursa Malaysia data presented at the “Journey on Board – Stepping Up to Make A True Impact” event organised in 2019 by MIA and the 30% Club Malaysia chapter, women currently occupy 23.2% of board seats in the Top 100 companies, an increase from 14% in 2015. Across all 943 PLCs on Bursa, there are 147 companies with 30 per cent or more women on the board whereas there are 304 companies with zero women on board. So, there is ample room for improvement and growth - with the right policies and support in place.
  12. MIA is very supportive of Malaysia’s agenda of getting more women onto boards to diversify talent, because research has shown that more diversified boards are more high performing. Women accountants have highly relevant skills for board positions, especially in Board audit committees which is one of the most important risk management mechanisms for organisations. MIA members bring to the table not just financial acumen, but professional scepticism which is imperative for board and board audit committee members. MIA hopes that the session on board and C-suite leadership is insightful and ignites your board aspirations.
  13. I also want to call your attention to the session on technology leadership. This is related to IWD2020 which seeks to celebrate digital advancement and champion the women forging innovation through technology. As an advocate of technology transformation for the profession, anchored by MIA’s Digital Technology Blueprint, MIA truly believes that technology can be an enabler and a great equaliser for all humans, regardless of gender. Tech can free up our resources, expand our capacity, and add value to our abilities by providing new solutions to our needs and taking over mundane and repetitive tasks. 
  14. Unfortunately, there is still a digital gender gap. According to the Global Fund for Women, which is a grantmaker and a global advocate for women’s human rights, most technology today is still made by men, so women’s needs and enablement are not necessarily addressed.
  15. New research from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is a United Nations specialised agency, has substantiated the technology gender gap. Although most of us in this room take Internet access for granted, our fellow women might not have the same privilege. As of November 2019, some 4.1 billion people globally — or 53.6% of the population — have access to the internet and its accompanying services e.g. education, learning, government services, fintech, payments, e-commerce, mobility, to name a few. But the ITU found that accessibility is significantly skewed in favour of men. Globally, 58% of all men have access to the internet, versus less than half (48%) of women . As a result, women risk being excluded from an increasingly digital world. So today, we hope to address how we can use technology as an enabler to level the digital playing field and to help more women to Lead to Be Equal, digitally.
  16. Ladies and gentlemen, I am confident that you will find a great deal of value from today’s sharing sessions. In concluding my remarks, I would like to share this quote from Gloria Steinem, a noted journalist, political activist and feminist. She said: “Whatever the question, women are part of the answer.” What she meant was that we have to engage, and we all have to take responsibility and the changes that we want to achieve. By being more visible, active and engaged participants, by framing questions from women’s contexts and perspectives and sharing rational and well-thought out solutions, we can help to develop better policies and systems that enable women and society.
  17. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my hope that this Symposium will not only provide insights into the policies needed to further develop women to their full potential, but that it will help the women present today to utilise and showcase 21st-century leadership strengths – such as empathy, cooperation, collaboration and teamwork, nurturing, social intelligences, courage and trust – that can bring greater benefit to all stakeholders, both men and women.
  18. The last two strengths – COURAGE and TRUST – are very important. Olivia Kirtley, IFAC Past President said: “Competence must be accompanied by confidence, which can only be gained through experience – raise your hand, take the risk of accepting new challenges and opportunities.” This is how we grow. She also said: “Don’t wait until you think you are 100% prepared. Few of us really are. Go for it.”
  19. But while you go for it, never abandon your integrity. As accountants and as women, we all intuitively know that integrity, trust and reputation are our core assets. Trust offers security, and lowers transactional costs. It is also the core competency of the accountancy profession – whereby we offer independent assurance that engenders trust and reputation. Continuing trust-building is one of the key ingredients of success in the digital economy and trust is something that we as accountants must never compromise, especially as the world today faces a trust deficit.
  20. IFAC’s Kevin Dancey said and I quote, “The profession is rooted in strong skills and backed by a code of ethics that had been revised and restructured to make it even more relevant in the global economy. Accountants are part of the solution to the public trust crisis.”
  21. So, as women and as accountants, I strongly encourage everyone here today to invest in and engage in building trusted relationships where we work seamlessly together in informed cooperation. MIA calls this, strategic collaboration or even leadership collaboration. By adopting this model, we do not only create smoother transactions and relationships at every level, but we positively impact the lives of all people and stakeholders with whom we interact.
  22. Before I end, on behalf of MIA, I wish to thank our distinguished speakers for their involvement and participation, all our supporters and partners for working with us to ensure the success of this inaugural symposium.

    I leave you with this quote from J.K Rowling – “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” Happy International Women’s Day 2020.