Firms urged to hold on to top females

Local | Charlotte Luo 19 Jun 2019

Hong Kong companies stand to lose 24 percent of their female talent over the course of their careers, says a study by the University of Hong Kong and a consultancy firm.

Hong Kong's Female Talent Pipeline Study, conducted by the university's faculty of business and economics and Meraki Executive Search & Consulting, found that the percentage of female workers drops from 53 percent of the total workforce to 29 percent at the senior management level.

Conducted between October and February, it found large organizations with 500 employees or more are at risk of losing, on average, 30 percent of their female talent over the course of their careers, resulting in a loss of more than HK$3.9 million on average per senior leader.

Women constitute 22 percent at the senior management level on average in large companies, compared to 61 percent in small firms that employ fewer than 50 people.

Kirti Lad, executive director of Meraki Executive Search & Consulting, said nine out of every 10 Hong Kong women encountered barriers in achieving their career aspirations - "from a lack of promotional opportunities in their companies and industries and not being recognized and valued to the burden of family commitments," Lad said.

The study also revealed that Hong Kong has some of the longest working hours in the world and there is a lack of flexible or part-time roles.

Shen Haipeng, the university's associate dean of executive education, said that women make up 54 percent of the university's undergraduates, but despite the abundance of talent in Hong Kong, the number of women at the senior management level in companies stand at 29 percent.

He said companies slowly lose female talent through the ranks as they drop out of the workforce or seek greater flexibility and environments where their contribution is valued.

Lad said that to increase the participation of women in the workplace and retain their skills and experience, companies must rethink their structure of work in terms of how, when and where employees work.

Some large corporations are actively implementing measures to reach a gender balance, including Philip Morris International and KPMG.

Women constitute 68 percent of Philip Morris International's senior management in Hong Kong.

The company provides flexible working arrangements, personalized career and development plans and develops female talent through peer networking opportunities.

Stacey Kennedy, the company's president for south and southeast Asia, said equal pay for equal work among men and women is the baseline measure of equality and an essential building block for creating a more inclusive, gender-balanced workplace.

"We wanted credible, independent confirmation that our pay practices match our good intentions. We've recently obtained the Global Equal-Salary Certification - which is a first for any international company," she said.

KMPG has also introduced similar measures.

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