Ageing Asia 'needs more women in boardrooms'

KUALA LUMPUR • Ageing Asia needs to put more women in the boardroom to maintain growth and competitiveness, a top recruiting agency said last Friday, as new figures showed 80 per cent of top jobs in key parts of the region are held by men.

Men hold eight out of 10 senior roles in over 30 industry sectors across China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, according to the latest gender diversity research by Britain-based recruitment firm Hays.

A total of 81 per cent of female respondents believed they face barriers to career success due to their gender, and more than half said there are gender diversity issues within their companies that need to be addressed.

Twenty-two per cent of the women surveyed were unhappy with their current level of seniority, compared to 15 per cent of male respondents.

"Tackling gender bias around promotion, recruitment and accommodating life choices such as parenting and elder care requires focus and can be confronting to any organisation," Hays Hong Kong managing director Dean Stallard said.

"However, with an ageing population and workforce in Asia, the companies that get this right will ensure they have the largest pool of talent to draw upon as candidates get harder to find and, thus, will gain a competitive advantage."

A total of 967 respondents from the five markets were polled online and interviewed between March and April this year, Thomson Reuters Foundation reported.

The survey found that Hong Kong has the highest number of men occupying the top jobs at 89 per cent while Malaysia has the largest portion of female leaders, but only at 24 per cent.

The majority of the respondents of both genders said greater gender diversity helps ensure business success.

Mr Stallard urged companies to see past their "unconscious bias" when it comes to hiring and review their policies to ascertain whether they are skewed towards male success.

"It is well-known that managers often hire in their own image so given (the fact that) men far outnumber women in line management and senior roles, deliberate intervention is required if companies are to reap the benefits offered by greater gender diversity."

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in May warned that the rapidly growing number of elderly people in Asian economies is set to create a demographic "tax" on growth.

After enjoying substantial demographic dividends in the past decades, Asia's population growth rate is projected to fall to zero by 2050 and the share of working-age people - now at its peak - will decline over the coming decades, the IMF said.

The share of the population aged 65 and older will increase rapidly and reach close to 21/2 times the current level by 2050, it said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Ageing Asia 'needs more women in boardrooms''. Print Edition | Subscribe