What do Tencent Holdings, Hong Kong and China Gas and AAC Tech have in common? They are blue-chip companies that have never appointed a female director, according to Community Business, a not-for-profit organization based in Hong Kong.
This state of affairs in the corporate world is exactly what Frances McDormand, the winner of this year’s Oscar for best actress, wants to change in Hollywood, which is why, in her acceptance speech, she called for an “inclusion rider” in the contracts of lead performers, which simply means having a diversified cast that includes women, gays, minorities, etc. just like in real life.
In the local business scene, Community Business notes that 10 out of 52 blue-chip companies have not appointed a single woman to their board of directors.
That ranks Hong Kong one of the lowest in terms of workplace equality and inclusiveness among global financial centers.
It’s not a hopeless case, however. Women representation on the boards of Hang Seng Index companies actually increased to 13.8 percent this year, from 12.4 percent in the previous year. But that’s still quite low when compared with Malaysia’s 19.1 percent and also short of the ideal quota of 30 percent.
Only one local blue-chip company, Hang Seng Bank, has a female chief executive. But let’s keep our fingers crossed that another woman, Laura Cha, will ascend to the chair of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing next month.
“It is our firm belief that real progress needs to be driven by business, for business,” said Fern Ngai, CEO of Community Business, a group that seeks to harness the power of business to drive social change. “Companies themselves – their chairpersons, nomination committees, senior leaders, HR directors – must lead the charge with the recognition that gender diversity at the board level and within their organization is an important business imperative that will benefit their business now and in the future.”
The release of the group’s survey on female board members came right after Frances McDormand made her sensational pitch for actors to only sign movie contracts that guarantee gender equality and racial diversity.
It also coincided with the release of another study by INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute and Deutsche Bank, which concludes that gender equality in corporate leadership is far from being achieved in the Asian workplace.
Alexander Prout, head of Deutsche Asset Management for Asia Pacific, said: “It is no secret that gender disparity continues to be an issue for the financial services sector.” He stressed that the issue needs to be addressed both within the company and at the industry level.
He said Deutsche Bank is committed to the development of female talent and proactively aims to increase the gender across the bank, with a particular focus placed on senior corporate levels.
More inclusive measures need to be taken by Hong Kong corporates for our city to be truly considered a global financial center of the 21st century.
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