From a global perspective, the number of women in executive positions has stagnated in recent years. In corporations, about 50 per cent of employees in entry-level occupations are women, with the proportion of women in senior and management roles drastically declining. Globally, only 3 to 4 per cent of chief executives are women. The Grant Thornton International Business Report states in its 2014 annual survey that the percentage of women in senior positions remains at 24 per cent, unchanged from its findings in 2012, 2009, and 2007. In Europe, Norway boasts the highest percentage of board seats held by women (41 per cent), followed by Sweden (27 per cent). However, when it comes to an absolute increase of women in senior management roles, Asia-Pacific leads the way. In Southeast Asia, 35 per cent of senior executive positions are held by women. It is 38 per cent in China, boosted by radical urbanisation that has empowered women, the growing opportunity to enrol in secondary studies and higher education, as well as the fact that the country is the fastest-growing major economy in the world. Last but not least, China's now defunct one-child policy laid the ground for the fact that women are now filling positions which were previously given to men, since as only children, women must also take on financial responsibility for the family. According to Fortune magazine, China now has 44 per cent female labour participation, versus 46 per cent in the US, and 64 per cent of adult women work in the growing economy compared to 49 per cent in Japan. The power of working women is fostered in Beijing and Shanghai in particular. This is a result of a number of factors: women do comparatively fewer household chores and responsibilities; there is an abundant affordable supply of domestic staff; and more willing support from male members of extended families. Another factor helping the progress of female executives in Asia is easy access to free childcare. In the Grant Thornton report, Francesca Lagerberg suggests that in many Asian societies, families tend to be close-knit, living with or near parents and grandparents who assume the responsibility for watching over the children. This is true in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, where 41 per cent, 40 per cent and 38 per cent of women respectively, take advantage of the free childcare provided by extended families. In Hong Kong, 33 per cent of senior management positions are held by women, representing the third-highest number in the Asia Pacific region (Grant Thornton 2012); there are also many women directors sitting on government advisory boards and committees and not-for-profit organisations. The abundant supply of well-educated women is reflected in the percentage of female senior managers compared to other Asian countries. Despite this, women are still significantly under-represented on the boards of Hong Kong companies and constitute only 11.3 per cent of all directors in Hong Kong. There has been no improvement in the last five years, although the city's stock exchange has recognised the need for regulatory intervention by introducing a new code that directs listed companies to report on their board diversity policy. Effective from September 1, 2013, the code does not impose mandatory obligations, though it does require companies to "produce or explain why." Since 1978, the birth rate in the mainland has almost halved and 160 million people have migrated from rural areas to cities. The birth rate in Southeast Asia has roughly halved since 1980, with more Southeast Asian women than men in higher education. New career opportunities for Southeast Asian women are also stimulated by urbanisation and a tendency to have children at later ages. Given these societal shifts in Asia, it is likely that the proportions of women in senior positions will continue to rise. To tap into the supply of board-ready women, businesses must look outside their existing networks, ensure women are included on shortlists of board candidates and advertise appointments transparently. Caroline Lim is a client partner based in Hong Kong and head of legal, compliance and regulatory & corporate governance in Asia-Pacific for Pedersen & Partners. Beryl Chu is a client partner based in the firm's Shanghai office.