One in four HK women put their families first

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 February, 2011, 12:00am

More than one in four Hong Kong women put their families ahead of their careers, a study released on Valentine's Day says.

The Women's Commission survey found 26 per cent of women - 40 per cent of them mothers - did not want a career because they 'have to look after other family members', 'prefer to spend more time with their children' or 'have to do housework'.

At the same time, one in five married or cohabiting men said they preferred their partners to put family responsibilities ahead of careers.

The study of 3,002 residents - over 40 per cent of them men - was conducted between February and May last year in face-to-face interviews.

It found more than 70 per cent of people believed discrimination against women in the workplace was still common, while almost 30 per cent said sexual harassment of female workers was always present.

Over 70 per cent agreed that men were more easily promoted and paid higher salaries than women of the same rank, and the same percentage thought being a woman was a general obstacle to career development.

The study also found many women face difficulties when they return to work after giving birth, with 40 per cent of married or cohabiting mothers saying their wages dropped when they went back to work.

'The survey findings show that women are still greatly conflicted over work and family commitments and the two can barely coexist,' Sophia Kao Ching-chi, chairwoman of the Women's Commission, said.

'Our society will continue losing able workers if there aren't enough policies - such as childcare and flexible working arrangements - to keep them in the workforce,' she said, adding that women made up half the workforce in Hong Kong. 'As well as stricter enforcement of the law and regulations, we urge the government to put more emphasis on education to change entrenched attitudes for the good of gender equality.'

Kao also called for paid paternity leave, which men in many European countries receive, to avoid women being overlooked for jobs because they might need maternity leave.

But the survey did find one positive sign - an increasing number of family-friendly policies in the workplace. About 70 per cent of respondents said their employers were willing to grant leave or time off for staff to attend to family matters.

Tough choice

Many women say wages fall when they return to work after giving birth

This percentage of survey respondents believe workplace discrimination against women is still common: 70%