Women's rights advocates call for more change

Award winners at women's rights conference urge greater openness, corporate culture change

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 3:17am

Hong Kong still has some way to go in achieving gender equality, according to several champions of women's rights who spoke at a conference yesterday.

Award winners at the Women of Influence Conference called for a change in corporate culture models and in social perceptions, to give more empowerment to women.

One recipient of the five awards given out to people and companies with exceptional achievement in women's rights was Phyllis Marwah, founder of non-profit group Mother's Choice, which deals mainly with young and poor women.

Marwah said more open discussion was needed about sex, adoption and abortion - some of the issues that plague women, especially in poorer groups in the city.

"These women don't have a choice. They have … nowhere to go," she said, referring to a lack of access to information and services related to family planning, adoption and abortion.

Marwah called for better sex education in schools and more public education to create awareness of these issues.

Award recipient Jill Robinson of Animals Asia, said charity organisations were generally open to women leaders because they were seen as more nurturing, fitting well into the notion of charity and non-profit work.

Another award winner, Sian Griffiths, a professor of public health at Chinese University, said: "There has to be a change to corporate culture. Work-life balance has to be taken into account, ageing well is important to enhance … mental health." Griffiths called for paternity leave, longer maternity leave and more flexible working hours, especially for women, whose roles in life can change drastically.

Award recipient Keith Pogson, with Ernst & Young's Asia-Pacific office, stressed the importance of mentorship and role models for young female professionals, saying companies must ensure women get the input they need to develop.

"There might be less history of women leaders [in Hong Kong], but there is talent and a growing number of [female] professionals," Pogson said. "The future, as we know, belongs to women."