URA must lead against gender bias

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 4:47am

At the Legislative Council, on June 19, Democratic Party legislator Helena Wong Pik-wan took to task Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing for failing to reach the 2010 benchmark of at least 30 per cent female presence on the boards of government statutory and non-statutory bodies ("Women take back seat on 35pc of panels", June 20).

Mr Tsang trotted out the standard defence that the majority of practitioners in the respective sector or profession are male. It is this mindset that has burdened us with advisory bodies stacked with males of a certain age and similar background. It is no wonder the advice given is predictable and in line with the general mindset of the sector concerned.

The excuse that members should be expert in particular fields is ridiculous.

While advisory bodies should include some experts and academics to provide technical know-how, far more important is that members have extensive life experience, have travelled and are lateral thinkers.

People with good general knowledge and experience in diverse fields can easily pick up the fundamentals of a particular sector. After all, many successful CEOs move from industry to industry.

There is also an urgent need for more youthful participation to bring in new ideas and more technologically-based solutions to resolve issues. With a more broad-based pool of talent to choose from, it should be possible to have 50 per cent participation from among the many able women in our community.

Ms Wong is concerned about the paucity of women on educational panels; she should be equally concerned about the make-up of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) board, now reduced to only one female member.

Women in our society suffer more than men from bad town planning decisions, and during the extensive Urban Renewal Strategy review completed in 2010, promises were made to introduce more grass-roots participation to the process as civic society wants a greater say in shaping the city and public participation. However, in 2013, the board is still an exclusive boys' club.

As the only female member, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong legislator Ann Chiang Lai-wan appears to have little expertise in town planning.

There are certainly many women in the community more qualified to evaluate development projects and their impact on society.

The 2014 URA appointments must address this issue.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai