No excuse for keeping women a small minority on advisory boards

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 April, 2012, 12:00am


When questions were raised about the suitability of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing's (HKEx's) new chairman, the response was that while Chow Chung-kong, an engineer by training and retired chief executive of the MTR Corporation, has no experience in the financial and securities sectors, he does have considerable management experience.

Compare this with the position of the administration - HKEx is a listed company, but we all know who pulls the strings - with regard to the number of women appointed to key advisory bodies ('Few women on powerful boards', April 22). A spokeswoman for the Development Bureau said that women are under-represented on the Town Planning Board - six women members out of 29 - because 'we consider it more important to appoint the right candidates'.

So when it comes to jobs for the boys in the form of lucrative post-retirement positions, there is no requirement for specific knowledge of the sector, but to qualify to be one of many on an advisory board, women have to be specialists?

Having attended several meetings of that board and judging from the paucity of informed questions raised by members, I would question the need for so many experts. What we do need on these boards are well-rounded individuals with life experience, the ability to grasp the fundamentals, inquiring minds and, most of all, common sense, a strong female trait.

What we have are mostly tenured academics and officials who enjoy a very sheltered and privileged lifestyle far removed from the nitty-gritty of ordinary folk, for whom they are making often life-altering decisions.

That only two of the 18 members of the Urban Renewal Authority board are female is appalling. During the long-drawn-out URA review conducted some time ago, many of the strongest representations came from women, and they were most tenacious in pushing for a more equitable form of urban renewal.

The result is a much more people-oriented system that respects the rights of all stakeholders to benefit from redevelopment, instead of the previously cosy arrangement that benefited only large property developers.

The new chairwoman of the Women's Commission favours a progressive increase in the participation of women in the decision-making process. This, despite the fact that our most able and respected government officials are female. No wonder women are still being excluded, when the very body that should be fighting tooth and nail for equality is settling for a snail's pace.

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui