Ignorance reigns on equality front

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 January, 2011, 12:00am

Most Hong Kong people believe women are independent and on par with men when it comes to power and the opportunities open to them - but the perception falls well short of reality.

A Women's Commission survey found that 87 per cent of females agreed that women were independent and autonomous. The study of 3,002 residents also found that 70 per cent believed men and women were equal in power and opportunities.

Commission chairwoman Sophia Kao Ching-chi said this did not reflect reality. 'Women's participation, particularly in the political arena, in decision-making levels, is still very much underrepresented,' she said. 'There is a danger people will be complacent, they will think we are doing fine.'

A South China Morning Post analysis found that women make up only 10 per cent of board positions in Hong Kong's 50 largest listed companies. They make up 18 per cent of lawmakers, 17 per cent of judges and 32 per cent of top civil servants. (To explore the number of men and women on boards and public bodies, go to http://whorunshk.scmp.com/scmp/).

The Women's Commission survey also paints a sub-par picture of female civic participation. Nearly half of the women surveyed had not heard of government advisory or statutory bodies, paths Kao sees as key to promoting female involvement in public affairs.

'We need to do a lot more to educate the general public,' she said. 'They are not aware there are such bodies and are not aware of the avenue to take to become appointed to these bodies.'

Only 19 per cent of seats on government advisory and statutory bodies were held by women when the commission was established in 2001. The government set a target of 25 per cent in 2004 and is steadily pushing for that number to rise.

'We are moving gradually from 25 to 30 and hopefully in the future to 50. This is one thing that we have all worked very hard on,' Kao said.

Even in female-dominated fields, the participation is not translating into political representation. While the survey found that more women take part in volunteer and community organisations than men, only 8 out of the 40 members of the social welfare sub-sector of the 2007 Election Committee were women, according to the South China Morning Post analysis. The Election Committee votes on who becomes the city's chief executive.

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