Companies in Asia’s leading economies have “strikingly” few women in senior jobs, missing out on a vital pool of talent to fuel the region’s growth, consultancy firm McKinsey & Co said yesterday.
In a survey covering 744 firms in 10 major stock markets in the Asia-Pacific, McKinsey said women on average account for only 6 percent of board seats, compared with 17 percent in Europe and 15 percent in the US.
Women hold 8 percent of executive committee seats in the Asian firms, still lower than the average of 10 percent in Europe and 14 percent in the US, it said, calling the numbers in Asia “strikingly low.”
“It’s a huge waste of talent, as half of Asian graduates are female. And it is a waste that Asian companies can ill afford, given the severe shortage of senior managers in the region,” the report titled Women Matter said.
Australia, Hong Kong and China topped the list of female presence in the boardroom, with women accounting for 13, 9 and 8 percent respectively in these top jobs, while South Korea, Japan and India were at the bottom.
In South Korea, where a conservative culture makes women’s “double burden” of career and household duties particularly heavy, women take up only 1 percent of boardroom seats.
Japan came next from the bottom, with only 2 percent of such jobs held by women due to similar pressures on them to be a sole caregiver of the family, it said, adding about 60 percent of Japanese women quit or change jobs after marriage.
The number hovers slightly higher at 5 percent in India. Such “double burden” pressure was a dominant reason for women in the two economic powerhouses in northeast Asia, as well as in India, to leave jobs, while it had a far less influence in places like Singapore and China, it said.
“The double burden affects women in Europe, too. But inarguably, it is particularly heavy for Asian women … also because there is a lack of government support in areas such as childcare,” it said.
China fared better than most other neighbors, but the situation in Asia’s biggest economy is hardly satisfying, given it has one of the world’s highest female labor participation rates, the report added.
“The study finds that … gender diversity is not yet high on the strategic agenda for most Asian companies, and few senior managers believe this will change anytime soon,” McKinsey said in its first study on women in corporate Asia.
“Given tight labor markets and intense competition for talent across Asia … gender diversity needs to become a corporate priority,” said Claudia Sussmuth-Dyckerhoff, co-author of the report.
She urged governments to follow moves by Malaysia or South Korea to set quotas for public jobs or offer incentives for firms building daycare centers, and management to offer more development programs for women.
Since 2007, McKinsey has been researching the role women play in the global workplace, their experiences and impact in senior executive roles and the performance benefits that companies gain from gender diversity. The research is reported in its Women Matter publications.
Additional reporting by staff writer