Face Off: are women treated fairly in HK?

Compiled by Ben Young

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week...

Compiled by Ben Young |

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Joyee Au Yeung, 18, University of Pennsylvania, United States

Feminism and gender equality are hot topics in Hong Kong. But gender stereotyping is still prevalent in our city.

From an early age, boys are taught be to be loud and confident, which is obvious from the common Chinese male name “Yong”, meaning brave. The qualities society values in girls are very different – common words of praise include “Wenjing”, which is also a name and means quiet and reserved. Girls are expected to be sensitive and delicate, while boys would be criticised for such behaviour.

Women are not encouraged to pursue a career in Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths), and usually study humanities. Growing up with these stereotypes shapes both sexes, and affects people’s ability to truly be themselves.

Women are also expected to be wives and mothers first, while their careers are put on hold. Women are usually responsible for bringing up and educating their children. For example, there are a lot more mothers than fathers at parent-teacher conferences at school.

Women face discrimination at work, too, because they get a much lower salary than most men. Bloomberg reported that Hong Kong’s pay gap widened to 22.2 per cent in 2017 from 19.1 per cent a decade ago. There’s no doubt gender inequality still exists in many businesses and workplaces.

Women are not treated fairly in Hong Kong, but they are moving towards equality day by day. They are being celebrated for their achievements not only as wives and mothers, but also as professionals in various fields ranging from law and social work to science and medicine.

Nicholas Ng, 17, South Island School

I believe women are treated fairly in Hong Kong at both educational and company levels. This has been proven by people’s changing attitudes and the increasing opportunities for women in the city.

Companies here offer maternity leave while fathers also get a few days off so that they are able to take a more hands-on parenting role. Similarly, many firms – for example, Standard Chartered – have introduced policies which ensure that there is a certain percentage of women at a senior level. This shows that Hong Kong has come a long way in giving hardworking women the respect they deserve.

Great progress has been made in education, too. According to the Census and Statistics Department, both boys and girls have been treated equally since the 1970s.

The school enrolment rate for girls in general has been higher than that for boys since the 1980s. The gap between male and female enrolment in post-secondary education has narrowed and female students have outnumbered males in entering University Grants Committee-funded programmes in recent years. Certainly, statistics suggest that the representation of women in Hong Kong politics and some other areas may be limited.

However, recent events such as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the establishment of several gender equality NGOs (for example, the Women’s Foundation), the first all-female E-sports team in Hong Kong, and the TEDxWanChai event hosted by a group of Chinese female professionals, have shown that Hong Kong is very close to having gender equality, if it’s not already a key feature of our city.

In conclusion, while there’s definitely room for improvement, women in Hong Kong have it better than those in a lot of other places around the world.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge