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‘Absolutely no increase’ in number of women directors in Hong Kong

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Over the past 12 months, the representation of women on the boards of Hong Kong’s leading companies on the Hang Seng Index (HSI) has remained stagnant at 11.1%.

In fact, two-thirds of companies have showed no improvement at all with regards to increasing gender diversity at the board level.

That was according to the latest findings of Community Business’ annual Women on Boards Hong Kong Report.

The report highlighted that the number of all-male boards has increased from 14 to 16.

However, seven companies have resolutely ignored the call to action – and still have zero female directors on board.

With this flat trajectory, Hong Kong lags further behind international counterparts, notably the U.K. (26.1%), Australia (21.5%) and the US (20.0%) which have been making significant progress over the past seven years.

Community Business has been analysing data on women representation in the boardroom since 2009 and this update continues to look at the representation of women on the boards of the top 50 companies listed on the HSI as of  January 2 2016.

“It is extremely disappointing that there has been absolutely no increase in the representation of women on Hong Kong’s corporate boards in the last 12 months,” said Fern Ngai, CEO of Community Business.

“The glacial pace of women’s inclusion over the last seven years, since we started to put the spotlight on women on boards, indicates a lack of recognition of women’s talents and tremendous contribution to the economy, and is a clear indication that there are cultural and institutional barriers that continue to prevent women from advancing to the top. We need to find a way to overcome the inertia on this issue and encourage business leaders to take targeted action,” she added.

ALSO READ: Why women in Hong Kong are quitting their jobs

Not all is bad news though.

The report found there has been a nominal increase in the rate of new appointment to women. Among the 106 new appointments to the boards of the HSI companies, 16 were made up of women – up from 11% a year ago to 15%.

However, these new positions went to a small pool of women – with only five brand new names to the list. In addition, only one of the woman was Hong Kong based, showing that local companies are still failing to tap into the local pool of highly qualified women.

As further evidence of stagnation in Hong Kong, the report found are 17 female executive directors in 2016, representing just 7.9% of all 215 executive directorships, no change from last year’s figure.

In many respects, female executive directorships can be viewed as a true measure of gender diversity within an organisation, as they indicate that the company’s workplace environment supports the advancement of women through the organisation to reach executive and board roles.

This data suggests that Hong Kong companies are still failing to make concerted efforts to build a pool of ‘board ready’ female talent who have the skills and experience to potentially sit on boards.

Image: Shutterstock

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