HK Businesses Need to Show More Love to Female Talent

Forty-five percent. That is the amount of female talent that Hong Kong companies tend to lose throughout their careers.

Around 53% of the total workforce in Hong Kong are females. Yet, only 29% reach the senior management level said Hong Kong's Female Talent Pipeline Study. The study was developed by The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Business and Economics (HKU FBE) and Meraki Executive Search & Consulting.

“Nine out of every 10 Hong Kong women report barriers to reaching their career aspirations,” said Kirti Lad, executive director, Meraki Executive Search & Consulting. She cited the lack of promotional opportunities in their companies/industries and not being recognized and valued, to the burden of family commitments as major ones.

The biggest losers are large enterprises that have more than 500 employees. They are at risk of losing, on average, 57% of their female talent throughout their careers. Females make up 52% of the total workforce of these companies. But only 22% reach senior management level. The study noted that this amounts to a loss of more than half a million USD, on average, per senior leader.

“Companies that have at least 30% gender diversity overall outperform their less diverse counterparts in key leadership and business outcomes. In the disruptive era in which we operate, it is now more important than ever for companies to have innovative leaders who can challenge conventional thinking,” Lad said.

"Companies benefit from the wealth of talent on offer in Hong Kong at entry to mid-level management, only to 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,” said Prof. Haipeng Shen, Associate Dean, Executive Education, The University of Hong Kong (HKU).

The large enterprises’ losses are playing into the smaller companies’ hands, especially those with less than 50 people. The study noted that females represent 61% of their senior management.

“Smaller companies in Hong Kong attract senior female talent who require greater flexibility and time,” Lad said.

Regardless, Lad urged Hong Kong companies to start addressing the challenges. Flexible and part-time roles are areas to begin.

"Hong Kong has some of the longest working hours in the world, presenteeism is rife, and there is a lack of flexible or part-time roles in the city. In order to increase the participation of women in the workplace and to retain their skills and experience within the talent pool, we must rethink the structure of work – in terms of how, when and where employees work. Without a concerted focus on managing the female talent pipeline, companies stand to merely reinforce the status quo, losing out on opportunities to challenge conventional thinking and drive innovation and business transformation,” Lad added. 

The study signaled the launch of the Women's Development Programme. HKU created the six-day initiative with Meraki Executive Search & Consulting. The Programme is an extension of the Women’s Directorship Programme. But it is focused on talent needs at the management levels below the C-suite. The goal is “to support high potential female talent during the transformation journey from mid to senior management,” said Lad.