Women make up just 4% of CEOs in Asia-Pacific companies, and gender equality across the region is a mixed bag, a report from Equileap has found. But in such a diverse region, there are pockets of encouraging progress.
In its 2022 report, Gender Equality in Asia-Pacific, gender equality data company Equileap found out of the 1,181 publicly-listed companies in the region with a market capitalisation of $2bn or more it analysed, women make up 4% of CEOs – roughly in line with the global average of 5% – 10% of CFOs and 5% of board chairs.
Singapore has the highest percentage of women in the C-suite, with 14% women CEOs and 26% women CFOs, as well as the highest percentage of women in the overall workforce in the region with 44%.
“When I saw these results, I vividly recalled a business dinner in Tokyo a couple of years ago,” Equileap CEO Diana Van Maasdijk said in the foreword to the report.
“Sitting next to a well-respected Japanese board director of a multinational, we discussed gender equality and his daughters who had studied in the USA and now worked in London. When I asked when they were coming back, he laughed and replied ‘Never – they refuse to return to a country where they will not be able to build a career’.”
However, there are pockets of encouragement. For example, in Australia, 80% of companies have flexible hours policies and 69% have flexible locations policies.
Two companies – Xero in New Zealand and Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong – achieved gender balance across all Equileap criteria.
Most signs of progress come from regulation. For instance, the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Act (2012) helped countries here improve their gender equality scores across the board, as does statutory parental leave in Japan and Singapore.
Since the start of May, Japan has required listed companies to disclose the ratio of women in management teams, and approved a proposal requiring companies with over 300 employees to disclose their gender pay gaps.
But legislation requiring mandatory public reporting of gender pay gaps is lacking across the region, meaning many companies do not report.
Only 9% of Asia-Pacific companies publish their gender pay gap, and less than 1% have closed their gender pay gap. Hong Kong has the only company that has closed its gender pay gap at all company levels.
Similarly, a lack of enforced sexual harassment legislation means 57% of companies do not publish an anti-sexual harassment policy.