Women still only a small minority in Hong Kong's boardrooms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 5:31am

Women continue to be a small minority among the top management of leading companies in Hong Kong.

Only three more women were appointed as directors at 50 leading companies in the past 12 months and fewer than one in 10 board directorships at the top companies are held by women, according to the latest research by Community Business, a non-profit organisation.

Alexa Chow Yee-ping, the managing director of Centaline Human Resources Consultants, said when boards were dominated by males, it was difficult for a woman to be appointed.

The study reveals that out of a total of 649 board directorships at the component companies of the Hang Seng Index, only 61 are held by women. That represents just 9.4 per cent, a marginal improvement since last year, when the figure was 9 per cent.

Out of a total of 649 board directorships at the component companies of the Hang Seng Index, only 61 are held by women

Compared with overseas markets, Hong Kong ranked fifth in terms of the percentage of female directorships. Norway ranked first, with 40.9 per cent, followed by Britain, the United States and Australia.

It appears that the bigger the company, the more difficult it is for a woman to be appointed as a director. Women occupy 10 per cent of all directorships in Hong Kong-listed companies, an earlier survey by Grant Thornton International found.

The number of companies with more than one woman on their board has been declining. In 2009, 35.7 per cent of companies had several female directors but today it is 28 per cent, Community Business said.

It said while male board members were not actively thinking of excluding women, they should think to include women.

Fern Ngai, the chief executive of Community Business, said there was an adequate supply of talented women but it was hard to say how long it would before the city had a more balanced gender composition on its boards.

Among the 50 leading Hong Kong-listed companies, China Construction Bank has the largest concentration of women directors, with four, exactly one third, out of 12 board members. Hang Seng Bank comes in second, with five women out of 16 board directors

International research suggests that only once a critical mass of women in the boardroom is reached, with three or more believed to be the tipping point, can real culture change occur and boards then reap the benefits of gender diversity.

Three out of 10 directors of Standard Chartered of Hong Kong are women. Katherine Tsang King-suen, one of the women on the board and the chairman for greater China for the group, said the group's directors in Hong Kong consisted of people of different genders as well as nationality.