Progress for Women Leadership in Hong Kong, but Still Work to be Done, says American Chamber’s Women of Influence Committee

HONG KONG, FEBRUARY 9, 2023 - The results of a new survey released by the Women of Influence (“WOI”) committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (“AmCham”) shows promise for women holding leadership positions in Hong Kong companies, but also point to issues that continue to slow progress.

In a recent poll of close to 200 professionals in Hong Kong, more than 50% of the respondents stated that the recently implemented HKEX requirement of having women on boards of HKEX listed companies will not actually result in greater diversity on the boards of these companies. More is required to ensure that overboarding does not result in a small number of women holding many board seats and that directors, whether men or women, have diverse backgrounds. 

79% of the respondents believed that Hong Kong ranked above 50% of the jurisdictions in Asia with respect to equal opportunities for women in the workplace, but only 59% viewed that Hong Kong ranked above 50% of the jurisdictions in the world. This suggests that while Hong Kong is further along in its DE&I commitments in APAC, it still lags behind on a global scale. 

23% percent of the respondents said that their organizations did not employ any strategies to create a more inclusive recruiting process and 59% of respondents said that the strategies that they did apply either didn’t result in any more women being hired or that it is too early to tell if these strategies have had any impact.

“The HKEX’s recent requirement on board gender diversity is a push in the right direction and is beginning to impact leading companies in Hong Kong as they consider hiring decisions. However results from our survey indicate that strategies must be put in place to ensure that bias is not influencing recruitment for C-Suite roles,” said Marcia Ellis, Partner, Global Chair of the Private Equity Group and Member of the Board of Directors at Morrison & Foerster LLP and Co-chair of the WOI committee.

Inadequate training and leadership programming focused on women, a lack of commitment and awareness of gender diversity in corporate leadership as well as the perception that women are not as capable as men to hold senior leadership roles, were all listed by survey respondents as the main causes of lack of gender parity in C-suite roles in Hong Kong. 

“Pressure is increasing to dismantle the ‘all boys’ club that we see at many publicly listed companies in Hong Kong, including blue chip companies, and to in turn re-set the tone for women in leadership roles. We don’t feel it’s a case of companies not wanting to make these changes, but instead that ingrained prejudices that continue to permeate thinking among some leaders of companies in Hong Kong are challenging to address without adequate support,” said Chelsea Perino, Managing Director, Global Marketing & Communications at The Executive Centre and Co-chair of the WOI committee.

The leaders of the WOI believe that a multi-pronged approach is necessary to ensure that women are prepared for taking on leadership roles in Hong Kong, including education and training programs for women and girls, education of existing male leaders to dispel conscious and unconscious bias, and the change of government regulations and corporate policies to better support work-life balance particularly for women executives. 

The WOI works to highlight and remedy the issues faced by women in the workplace by conducting workshops for women university students, lobbying the government for regulatory change and highlighting outstanding women leaders, male allies and companies that champion women leaders through the Women of Influence Awards.

“We believe that organizations want to create positive change with regards to DE&I within their own teams, however especially in Hong Kong, transparency and communication is still an issue. In order to ignite real growth, organizations need to proactively explain why diversity is important, incentivize and promote those that deliver on DE&I goals, and invest both time and capital into educational programming that supports and helps to elevate underrepresented groups,” added Perino.

The WOI survey was conducted ahead of AmCham’s 19th Women of Influence Awards, the theme of which revolves around “Reimagining a Sustainable Future for Women.” The award ceremony will be preceded by a series of events focusing on empowering women to emerge from the Covid years stronger than ever and ready to use their strength to ensure that all people in Hong Kong enjoy the right to a sustainable future. 

Recent initiatives include hosting events that highlight successful women leaders in fields such as Web3.0, environmental sustainability in Hong Kong, as well as a panel of experts discussing DE&I policies in Asia. All activities actively ensure diversity in committee leadership, and dedication to working alongside the other industry committees within the Chamber and women's networks across Hong Kong to help promote women in leadership.

The series of events will culminate in the award ceremony to be held on February 21 (Tue) at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, featuring Poman Lo, Vice-chairman and managing director of Regal Hotels International; founder and CEO of Century Innovative Technology, as the keynote speaker, as well as an excellent line up of influencers and senior executives including Jennifer Parks, Norbyah Nolasco, Hannah Duley, Nina Faust, Tammie Tsang and Fiona Callanan to inspire the audience to create sustainable impact. 

The awards ceremony seeks to recognize and honor the best that Hong Kong has produced and to provide inspiration to other women. Past winners of individual categories awards included Angel Ng, Anushka Purohit, Sharlene Jacquier, Fiona Nott, Heidi Lee, Loretta Fong, Ying Chau, Adrian Warr, and Sun Life.

This year’s Women of Influence Awards is generously sponsored by Goldman Sachs, RGA, Telstra, Uber as the Gold Sponsors; Morrison Foerster as the Silver Sponsor; Akin Gump, Estee Lauder and Nord VPN as the Bronze Sponsors; Wallbrook as the Global Risk Advisor, as well as Two Birds Communications as the Communications Partner. 

For media enquiries, please contact: 
Ms. Queenie Tsui
Director, Communications & Government Affairs