6 Malaysian Female Leaders You Should Know About

They ARE the reason why Malaysia should have more female leaders #womenpower

The world has been without the full benefit of the talent, creativity and ideas of half its population for far too long.

Despite the progress that women have made in the workplace in recent years, they still account for a small amount of top leadership jobs.

So why is that a problem? Why do we need more women leaders?

According to Replicon, there are 17 reasons why women make great leaders. And these reasons include:

  • They value work-life balance
  • They are empathetic
  • They are nurturing
  • They are good multitaskers
  • They have high emotional intelligence

Disclaimer: We’re not implying that all women are superior to men in leadership. 

Generally, it can be seen through our day-to-day lives that women are more inclined towards a holistic and comprehensive approach. 

Coming back to Malaysia, our government announced a target back in 2011 for the corporate sector to push for women to represent 30% of decision-making positions by the end of 2016. Yet, as of June 2016, women accounted for only 15.2% of director positions in the top 100 listed companies on Bursa Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange).


Even so, the future looks promising for more equal representation of women in leadership as we are witnessing a strong pipeline of women graduates in the workforce. 

As we await the steady rise of women advancing at work, let’s take a look at 6 Malaysian women who made it in this man’s world and are role models for young girls and women of this nation:

1. Rafiza Ghazali - Group CEO, Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd (Cradle)Source: Flickr

As the newly-appointed Group CEO of Malaysia’s early stage startups influencer, Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd (Cradle), Rafiza has extensive experience in strategy, innovation, finance and management. She started her career at Arthur Anderson & Co in Australia and later held senior roles in several leading organisations including Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), RHB Investment Bank Bhd, Thomson Reuters and Sime Darby Bhd.

She’s also been a speaker, moderator, and panel member across various forums and panels, including at 2011 IFN Asia Forum, 2011 MIFC Istanbul Roadshow, 2011 Islamic Financial Intelligence Summit by Financial Times, 2012 WIBC Asia Singapore, and 2012 SC’s Islamic Market Programme.

2. Sharala Axryd - Founder & CEO, Center of Applied Data Science (CADS)Source: Malay Mail

Sharala Axryd is a data evangelist and an influential thought leader in the data science space. She is highly sought-after for sharing her thoughts and insights on topics ranging from analytics to women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).


She’s a strong advocate for more female role models and leaders in STEM and hopes that women can be more assertive about their goals and needs in the workspace.


She was also among Morgan Philips’ 5 Most Influential Female Online Entrepreneurs (and the only Asian on the list), known for her work and passion in data science and established CADS to enable innovation and creating opportunities for those who want to make a change. 

3. Dzuleira Abu Bakar - CEO, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC)Source: MaGIC on Twitter

A Malaysian-made professional, Dzuleira Abu Bakr completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in both locally renowned universities. Prior to her stint as CEO of MaGIC, Dzuleira has a wealth of experience in the fields of private equity and venture capitalism. 

Dzuleira is a fierce promoter for women empowerment and equal gender opportunities in the workplace. She has participated as a panelist in events like Standard Chartered’s Press For Progress Women Forum—an event aimed at creating conversations about women leadership and to inspire the next generation of female leaders.

4. Surina Shukri - CEO, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)Source: The Egde Markets

Surina Shukri, a Kuala Lumpur local moved to New York in 2001 where she gleaned over 17 years of valuable Wall Street experience in her time as an investment banker at JP Morgan Chase & Co. During her time there, she honed her skills by advising multi-billion dollar mergers and acquisitions, capital raising transactions, and even served as a member of the Commercial Banking Executive Committee at JP Morgan Chase & Co.

She is a vocal supporter of equal representation in entrepreneurial leadership positions. As a breast cancer survivor, she is also a strong advocate for breast cancer awareness and has participated in numerous campaigns to provide support for breast cancer patients and survivors.

5. Aireen Omar - President, AirAsia Group (RedBeat Ventures)Source: The Vocket

Since joining AirAsia in January 2006 as Director of Corporate Finance, Aireen Omar’s portfolio expanded quickly to also include Treasury, Fuel Procurement and Investor Relations functions. She played an instrumental part in shaping AirAsia into one of the fastest growing and most highly-acclaimed airlines globally. 

She graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science and also holds a Masters in Economics from New York University. Her previous experience includes working for Deutsche Bank in New York and London as well as Maybank, the largest banking and financial services group in Malaysia.

6. Mac Chung Lynn - Group CEO, Nando’s Malaysia and SingaporeSource: MaGIC

KFC may reign supreme in the world of fried chickens, but no one does PERi-PERi flame grilled chicken better than Nando’s. The South African restaurant chain outlets in Malaysia and Singapore are headed by Mac Chung Lynn, Group CEO of Nando’s Malaysia and Singapore.

In an interview with The CEO Magazine, Chung Lynn said that she aims to “inspire her staff with an adventurous spirit and the values of pride, passion, courage, integrity and family”. She plans to steer Nando’s into not only becoming Malaysia and Singapore’s most-loved dining brand, but also a company with purpose.

Women have proven time and time again that they are capable and deserving to be leaders just as much as men. More still needs to be done to give women a shot at rising to the top, and if that happens, it really doesn’t matter who’s in charge - regardless of gender.

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