Gender Diversity Key to Good Corporate Governance

Hong Kong business women still holds nearly one-third of senior management position (30%), albeit falling down to sixth within Asia, behind emerging economies including Philippines (37%), Thailand (36%), Vietnam (33%), and Taiwan (31%), reveals the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR).


Interestingly, China tops the world with the highest proportion of women in senior management (51%), which also makes China the only country in the world where more than half of senior management roles are occupied by women, all the more impressive given that in 2012 it was only 25%.


“The market has certainly changed over the last decade, with women playing a major role in driving the world’s growth economies and bringing different perspectives and ideas to the decision making process and the smooth running of their companies," says Amy Chiang, senior manager at Grant Thornton Hong Kong. "However, progress is slower in the developed economies, where economic performances have been stuttering, as compared to the high growth economies of Asia and other emerging markets.”


“We urge businesses in developed economies to emulate emerging market counterparts and reap the benefits of having more women in senior positions. The pioneer economies where economic growth is high are showing greater diversity in their senior management teams. In comparison, the mature economies are now playing catch up. They need to wake up to gender disparity and add this crucial ingredient to long-term growth and profitability.”


Gender diversity matters
No matter in listed companies or privately held businesses, the decision of the board of directors can make a real difference to the growth of the business and its people. Good decision requires diversity of thought, which can only come from people who have different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. With more women getting involved in board decision making, it would enable greater cultural understanding, better board consensus and
greater creativity and innovation.


Chiang says: “Nowadays, with an increasing number of female business owners and a growth in women’s purchasing power, gender diversity within board members naturally leads to better financial performance. It’s because the more company mirrors its market demographically, the better positioned it is to sense and respond to evolving market needs.”


“Due to different background and experiences, women often bring a different skill set and perspective to the workplace. Companies have often found that women excelled at people management and social skills, and therefore it’s not surprising to see from our IBR research results that, 20% of businesses in Hong Kong have a female chief marketing officer, tied for top in Asia with Philippines, and 30% have a female human resources director.”


More encouragement needed
According to the IBR, up to 74% of businesses surveyed in Hong Kong have a board of directors, in which, however, only an average of 27% members are women. There’re even 17% of local businesses that have no women in their senior management team.


Encouragingly, over half (55%) of the Hong Kong businesses do support the introduction of quotas for number of women on executive boards of large listed companies. After a consultation paper was launched in September 2012, amendments have been made to the Corporate Governance Code of the Listing Rules, which requires (subject to comply or explain) listed companies to have their own policies concerning the diversity of board
members and effective this year in September.


“While the new code provision does not explicitly require quotas for women on boards in Hong Kong, the new regulatory requirement is certainly a step in the right direction. We would also like to see more done to promote gender diversity in senior management positions and privately held businesses, as diversity is the key to growth and good corporate governance,” Chiang concludes.

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