Gender diversity link to business success amid low female leadership in Asia

  • Economy
  • Wednesday, 20 Sep 2017

Hays regional director for Malaysia Tom Osborne

PETALING JAYA: Men still hold at least 80% of the top jobs in Asia as well as the bulk of line manager roles, according to research carried out by recruiting experts Hays.

Hong Kong has the highest number of men occupying the top job at 89% and Malaysia the highest percentage of female leaders at just 24%.

The annual gender diversity research conducted by Hays is based on a survey of women and men working in more than 30 industry sectors across China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

“Each year, Hays carries out research on gender diversity in all the countries where we support businesses. To better serve the thousands of employers and candidates we work with across Asia, we are producing this new report to focus exclusively on what is happening in our region,” said Hays Malaysia regional director Tom Osborne. 

“Last year, men held 79% of the top jobs and 67% of line manager roles so there is no real improvement in female representation in leadership roles. 

“However, we have been buoyed by the similarities of views when it comes to recognising that greater gender diversity delivers positives for business,” he says.

The largest proportion of respondents of both genders,among others, believe greater gender diversity contributes to business success, support
more sharing of family responsibilities to help address equality in the workplace and describe access to flexible work options as important to them.

They also concede women face barriers to career success due to gender and agree their organisation has some gender diversity issues to address.

“Tackling gender bias around promotion, recruitment and accommodating life choices such as parenting and elder care requires focus and can be confronting to any organisation.

“However, with an aging population and workforce in Asia, the companies that get this right will ensure they have the largest pool of talent to draw upon as candidates get harder to find and thus, will gain a competitive advantage that is truly worth the commitment in getting this done right,” Tom added.

By country, all Hong Kong survey respondents say greater gender diversity has a positive impact on business. Japan has the largest proportion of respondents with fewer than 6% of respondents saying greater gender diversity has no positive business impact. 

In Singapore, less than 5% of respondents share that view while in China, it was less than 3% and Malaysia only 1%.

Both male and female respondents in China, Malaysia and Singapore view company culture is the most useful benefit of greater gender diversity. 

In Japan, men and women see the recruitment of the best talent as the key benefit. In Hong Kong both genders agree greater gender diversity boosts a company’s reputation.

“Organisations need to review if the way they identify and promote high-potential employees is skewed towards male success.

“It is well-known that managers often hire in their own image so given men far outnumber women in line management and senior roles, deliberate intervention is required if companies are to reap the benefits offered by greater gender diversity.

“The best person for the role should get the job but too often, companies struggle to see past their own unconscious bias to identify high quality female talent.”

“We also need to ensure our work cultures enable women of ability to put their hand up for added responsibilities and promotion without being viewed as pushy,” he noted.
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