A vision to break down barriers for women

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2006, 12:00am

Sophia Kao takes on a new role with the aim of raising female representation on advisory groups to 30 per cent

The incoming Women's Commission chief has set 30 per cent as the new target for the number of women members on advisory bodies to the government.

Sophia Kao Ching-chi said she was proud that the commission's efforts had helped increase female representation on advisory bodies, which stands at about 25 per cent.

She now hopes to persuade the government to revise upwards its target to 30 per cent, in line with recommendations by the United Nations.

'We are hoping to establish a women leaders' network to help identify qualified candidates,' she said.

Ms Kao, who chairs her first commission meeting today, said it was her vision to break down barriers so every woman - and man - is able to realise their full potential.

To that end, the commission is conducting a survey on family-friendly work policies, hoping to build community parenting networks and setting new targets for getting more women involved in the government's advisory and statutory bodies.

In the 10 years between 1990 and 2000, the number of women in such bodies grew only slightly, from 15.4 per cent to 17.1 per cent. But since the commission was established in 2001 and persuaded the government to set a target of 25 per cent female representation, the proportion has increased. Last year, 25.1 per cent of members were female.

The commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission have commissioned Lingnan University to conduct the survey on implementation of family-friendly work policies by the city's employers.

'We think companies should enable people, particularly parents, to spend more time with their families and we are pleased with the chief executive's initiative of a five-day work week,' Ms Kao said.

'The survey is a fact-finding exercise, to see how many companies are aware of such practices, how many have tried them and what their experiences are, the benefits and difficulties for employers and employees.'

About 5,000 organisations will be approached from a cross-section of industries. Ms Kao said the survey should be completed by the middle of the year.

'Flexible working hours does not mean fewer working hours - the key point is flexibility,' she said. 'For example, allowing employees to take leave in small units, such as two hours off to attend parents' day, would be a big help.'