January 3, 2019 / In-depth

Women left behind in Hong Kong’s financial industry

By Cristian Angeloni, Fund Selector Asia

Only one in five board positions at financial companies are occupied by females, a report shows

Women left behind in Hong Kong’s financial industry

It’s still difficult for women to get to senior positions in Hong Kong’s financial industry, despite an increase in female representation in the industry across developed markets, a study by PwC has found.

The report shows that, while 52% of entry-level positions are taken by women, only 33% hold senior managerial roles. Female representation drops even further (to 21%) at board level.

The PwC study was conducted with the help of The Women’s Foundation, and surveyed 15 firms in Hong Kong.

It found that 73% of participants felt that women experience a lack of career progression, which is why only a third of managerial roles and a fifth of board positions are currently held by women.

Even when women get to more senior positions they face a gender pay disparity, as 73% of the female respondents felt that they were not earning as much as their male counterparts.

On the other hand, only 23% of men who participated in the survey expressed the same view.

What can be done

There were a number of suggestions in the report about how firms can boost female representation and improve equality.

Sponsorship programmes and flexible working policies were given among the top suggestions; but the report stressed that the real driver for change would come from leadership.

“Leading by example, especially from senior leadership, is the most effective way to normalise a culture of inclusion and empowerment. This drives the positive behavioural changes necessary for committed action and results.”

Change comes from the top

“What becomes clear is that collective action is needed to bring about change” said Fiona Nott, chief executive of The Women’s Foundation.

“We hope this survey serves as a starting point for comprehensive, Hong Kong-specific research on challenges to achieving gender parity across industries, and that it strengthens cross-sector collaborations to find innovative solutions to close these gaps.”

Harjeet Baura, financial services consulting leader at PwC Hong Kong, added that leaders need to set the tone from the top but also engage more with managers and middle-management.

“To drive this organisational change and move from conversation to action, leaders need to actively listen and acknowledge the obstacles women face around career advancement.

“Only then can organisations put in place effective measures to prevent losing their female talent. These measures might include prioritising flexible working policies, providing sponsorship opportunities for female talent and addressing any perceptions relating to unequal pay for women.”

– This article first appeared on ESG Clarity‘s sister title Fund Selector Asia.