Aging Asia needs more women in boardrooms — recruitment experts

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File photo shows Sunisa Hongaroon, a 67-year-old accountant, working in a transportation company in Bangkok, Thailand. — Reuters

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR — Aging Asia needs to put more women in the boardroom to maintain growth and competitiveness, a top recruiting agency said on Friday, as new figures showed 80 percent of top jobs in key parts of the region are held by men.

Men have eight out of 10 senior roles in over 30 industry sectors across China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, according to the latest gender diversity research by Britain-based recruitment firm Hays.

A total of 81 percent of female respondents believed they face barriers to career success due to their gender, and more than half said there are gender diversity issues within their companies that need to be addressed. Twenty-two percent of the women surveyed were unhappy with their current level of seniority, compared to 15 percent male respondents.

"Tackling gender bias around promotion, recruitment and accommodating life choices such as parenting and elder care requires focus and can be confronting to any organization," Hays Hong Kong managing director Dean Stallard said.

"However, with an aging population and workforce in Asia, the companies that get this right will ensure they have the largest pool of talent to draw upon as candidates get harder to find and thus, will gain a competitive advantage."

A total of 967 respondents from the five markets were polled online and interviewed between March and April this year. It found Hong Kong has the highest number of men occupying the top jobs at 89 percent and Malaysia has the largest portion of female leaders, but only at 24 percent. This was despite the majority of the respondents of both genders said greater gender diversity helps business success.

Dean urged companies to see past their "unconscious bias" when it comes to hiring and review its policies to ascertain whether they are skewed towards male success.

"It is well-known that managers often hire in their own image so given men far outnumber women in line management and senior roles, deliberate intervention is required if companies are to reap the benefits offered by greater gender diversity."

The International Monetary Fund in May warned that the rapidly growing number of elderly in Asian economies is set to create a demographic "tax" on growth.

After enjoying substantial demographic dividends in the past decades, Asia's population growth rate is projected to fall to zero by 2050 and the share of working-age people — now at its peak — will decline over the coming decades, the IMF said.

The share of the population aged 65 and older will increase rapidly and reach close to two-and-a-half times the current level by 2050, it said. — Thomson Reuters Foundation


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