Make gender pay gap reports mandatory in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong government and HKEX should make gender pay gap reports compulsory as figures published by HSBC and Standard Chartered in the UK show there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 2:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 2:40pm

HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank, both listed in Hong Kong, pay female bankers less than men in Britain, according to their gender pay gap report, but they argue that this is because of fewer women in senior roles.

This only proves that women are held back by the proverbial glass ceiling and that companies should do more to help encourage women to take senior roles to achieve gender balance at the top.

According to HSBC’s 2018 gender pay report released last Thursday, the hourly pay gap at UK’s largest bank was 60 per cent, slightly worse off than the 59 per cent in 2017.

HSBC said it was committed to improving the gender balance, but it “will take time and require sustained focus over the long-term.”

Standard Chartered Bank, another British lender, on the other hand fared better in terms of gender pay equality, according to a report issued last month. Its hourly gender pay gap stood at 30 per cent in 2017, down from 34 per cent in 2016. However, the bank is yet to issue its 2018 gender pay gap report.

According to a British law passed in April 2017, all companies with more than 250 employees are required to release detailed data on gender-related pay.

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The gender pay gap is the difference in the average hourly earnings between men and women working for an organisation regardless of their roles. It is not to be confused with equal pay for doing the same roles.

Also, the pay gap mainly reflects the fact that they are fewer women taking up senior roles.

At HSBC, 54 per cent of its staff in Britain are women, but they hold only 23 per cent of senior leadership positions. It also has more women than men working part time.

The bank did not give gender pay gap figures for Hong Kong or other markets.

Although there is no data available for gender pay gap in Hong Kong, the gap is like to be yawning as the top management at many large companies and banks is predominantly male dominated. That Hang Seng Bank’s chief executive Louis Cheang Wai-man is the only female chief executive among the 50 blue chips of the Hang Seng Index should be proof enough.

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Although HSBC has never had any woman as its group chairman or chief executive, its subsidiary Hang Seng Bank has a better record, naming three female chief executives in a row.

Standard Chartered Bank too fares better than HSBC in terms of both gender pay gap and women in senior roles.

While 46 per cent of Standard Chartered’s global staff were women in 2017, they also accounted for 43 per cent of its senior management. Among them is Mary Huen Wai-yi, the bank’s Hong Kong chief executive.

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Standard Chartered also voluntarily divulged gender pay gap in markets outside Britain – Hong Kong (33 per cent), Singapore (39 per cent), UAE (31 per cent) and US (24 per cent).

We hope HSBC also voluntarily goes beyond the UK requirement to disclose its pay gap in Hong Kong and Asia, as these market generate a majority of its profit. We would also like to know if its female staff receive a fair pay and chance to climb to the top.

The Hong Kong government and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing should also follow Britain to make it mandatory for large firms and listed companies to disclose their gender pay gap, as this would help the general public and investors to assess their gender diversity policies.