Progress towards equality far too slow

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 January, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 January, 1993, 12:00am

MAY I make one or two points and comment on your interesting editorial headlined, ''Equal treatment only fair for the fairer sex'' (South China Morning Post, January 4).

Although the Hongkong Government has failed to introduce the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) it is still amazing there are so few women holding high-level jobs in government, successful banks and commercial enterprises in Hongkong.

Indeed, outside the universities, the medical profession and, maybe the press and politics, only a handful have made it to the upper ranks.

Why does one never see women pilots in Hongkong or elsewhere in the Far East? For there were many of them around in Europe after World War II.

And, although women have, in theory, equal opportunities in the British Defence Forces, it is hard to find one above the rank of major. (However, the United States Army has one of their 20 female full colonels successfully heading their Army Liaison Office at the Consulate General here. And there are some female foreign consuls too).

But there are all too few female directors serving the important firms of Hongkong, indeed, the one notable exception is Lady Dunn who works hard and deserves her important role in the commercial, political and social life of the colony. Others are now rising in the political sphere.

There is, however, something to say on the side of the employer.

Too often middle-ranking women, who enjoy ''equal work for equal pay'' expect privileges, not available to their male colleagues, such as, ''leaving work early in order to do the shopping'', or even having an hour off, ''to have their hair done''. (During the few years I was in charge of administering staff, I refused these requests and the girls saw the point).

Again, male directors claim their female colleagues generally ''expect too much'' and, at times refuse equal treatment.

This certainly was the case amongst the few women war correspondents permitted to go to the forward area during the Western Desert campaign in North Africa in 1940-43.

There were some camp beds in the tents of the public relations compounds on a first-come first-served basis.

In any case, sleeping in the sand is quite comfortable. But two VIP female correspondents were given permission to visit the so-called ''front line'' of the 8th Army with Major Randolph Churchill, who was then working in Army Public Relations, as their Conducting Officer.

But, even he had a bad time of it, as they demanded the only available camp beds, a special latrine and extra water for washing. Their behaviour did women war correspondents a good deal of harm as it added to General Montgomery's prejudiced views againstwomen in combat areas.

But this is all half a century ago and, although progress towards equality has advanced, far too few women get above the middle ranks of their trade or profession.

An American director claims, when he interviews people for a job, he can always get women, of equal professional skills, far cheaper than men.

Although there are today scores of women, who are highly efficient in the commercial world, there seems little hope of their faces appearing in the annual picture of directors of the world famous banks and international companies.