Happy International Women's Day (IWD)!
IWD gives us the opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural
and political achievements of women. In Hong Kong, however, when it
comes to gender diversity on the boards of blue chip companies, there is
little cause to celebrate. The representation of women on Hang Seng
Index boards has stagnated at 11.1%, i.e. 0% growth from last year.
According to Community Business' annual research Women
on Boards Hong Kong 2016 Report , two-thirds
of companies showed no improvement at all in the last year.
Disappointingly, the number of all-male boards has increased from 14 to
16 (out of 50), bucking the downward trend seen since 2012, and seven
companies have resolutely ignored the call to action with zero female
directors since 2009. 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 all been making significant
progress over the past seven years, and is at risk of falling behind
other countries in the region that are targeting their efforts and
The glacial pace of women¡¦s inclusion on corporate boards, since we
started to put the spotlight on this issue in 2009, indicates a lack of
recognition of women¡¦s talents and tremendous contribution to the
economy, and is a clear signal that there are cultural and institutional
barriers that continue to prevent women from advancing to the top. The
business case for gender diverse boards is clear ¡V better decision
making, more creativity, improved risk management and corporate
governance, with a growing body of evidence linking gender diversity at
top levels with improved financial and non-financial performance.
However, excluding a few leading companies, most of Hong Kong¡¦s listed
companies are ignoring this at their peril. It¡¦s time that they wake up
to an issue that is on the agenda of regulators, stock exchanges,
investors, customers, and their own employees.
To drive faster and meaningful progress, rather than implementing
across-the-board quotas which we do not support, we urge companies to
voluntarily set targets that are relevant to their own business
environment, just like setting KPIs and maintaining scorecards as they
would as a natural part of business. If we continue to fail to see
improvement, it may well be time for stronger regulated measures to be
introduced in order to break Hong Kong¡¦s inertia.
We hope that in a year¡¦s time, we will have better news to report, and
that we too can join the global celebration of International Women's