Women yet to have their day in SAR

Editorial | Mar 9, 2017
The meaning of Mother's Day will become hollow if children only treat their moms well on that day.

Similarly, International Women's Day would be far less meaningful if the contributions of women are only appreciated on March 8.

It's a matter of social culture, and it makes perfect sense to ask - just where do women stand today?

It's undoubtedly better than before on the question of gender equality. At least most people can quickly name a few women who are influential politically or economically.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen are often cited. But there are surely others, including Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in- chief of Huffington Post; Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's de facto leader; Drew Gilpin Faust, president of the prestigious Harvard University; Ho Ching, chief executive of Singapore's Temasek Holdings; and Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund.

And the list keeps growing.

Except for the misogynistic, men should be pleased with the development, since an appropriate mix of genders and talents at the policymaking levels is bound to result in better judgment via multiple perspectives.

In fact, more talented Asian women are joining international boards, thanks to the unique outlooks they can often provide to complement multinational companies' global strategies.

A recent study by professional services firm, Grant Thornton, found women account for 25 percent of senior management roles globally, up one percentage point from a year ago.

Never ignore this seemingly minuscule growth, because before long, we will see parity on some boards.

Curiously, former communist regions are doing better. For example, 38 percent of senior positions are held by women in eastern Europe, with Russia being the only country where every business surveyed lists at least one woman in the corporate leadership.

Perhaps this is due to the communist doctrine that men and women are equal economically.

Elsewhere, Association of Southeast Asian Nations members fare better than others, as women account for 36 percent of senior roles, up two percentage points. The BRIC nations - Brazil, Russia, India and China - show remarkable progress too.

Interestingly enough, the United States remains stagnant at 23 percent on this aspect. More shockingly, nearly one third of the businesses in the survey don't even have women in their top management ranks. It's tough for American women to fight for gender equality in senior levels. Meanwhile, technology companies continue to be dominated by men.

Similarly, Hong Kong may be an international financial center, but it's lagging far behind its overseas peers. It can't be more disappointing to learn there are only 78 women out of 628 directors among the 50 blue-chip companies surveyed by consultancy Heidrick and Struggles.

That's a meager 12.4 percent.

Barring the unexpected, former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet- ngor should be elected the next chief executive this month.

Will she be able to hasten the cultural change leading to a greater role for women in the SAR?

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