Number of women in leadership positions increasing, say recruiters

Author: Kate Whitehead | Date: 15 Mar 2017

Rising female participation at college and university is creating more senior managers

Recruitment professionals claim they are seeing more multinational organisations hire female leaders, with the aim of boosting innovation and problem solving.
 
While these promotions are often in the HR function, or in the retail and beauty sectors, they signal a recognition of the value of women in senior positions and are part of an increasing trend of women entering management across Asia.
 
“Microsoft, for example, has a lot of women leaders - country heads, marketing directors and VPs. We see a lot of correlation between gender-diverse teams and problem solving,” said Clara Lam, manager of human resources and administration at Links in Hong Kong.
 
In Singapore, Tamara Sigerhall, director of Elliott Scott HR, points to the appointment of Grace Yip as COO of Group HR at DBS Bank.
 
“She’s doing some really interesting work in terms of driving innovation and future readiness. Getting more diversity means promoting diversity of thought and promoting a woman is a signal that DBS wants to innovate,” said Sigerhall.
 
Sigerhall, who has worked across the region, says she is seeing many of her larger clients investing in making it possible for women to achieve a balance between work and home life.
 
“Employers are using data analytics to look at the whole talent pool. They see that they have the same number of women until middle management and then they lose them and they are actively looking at what they can do to keep the talent – whether it’s offering longer maternity leave or letting them come back part-time,” said Sigerhall.
 
Sigerhall and Lam’s comments correspond to a recent Hays survey, which found 31 per cent of management roles in Asia are held by women – a 2 per cent increase on the previous year.
 
The countries with the highest percentage of women in managerial positions in the region are mainland China and Malaysia, both at 35 per cent, followed by Hong Kong (33 per cent) and Singapore (31 per cent). Japan was the poorest performer, with only 22 per cent of managerial positions going to women.
 
Malaysia’s position can be in part attributed to a government quota introduced in 2011, that 30 per cent of women on publicly listed boards must be women. And in China, the perception that women are equal to men – combined with a fast growing economy and talent shortage – has ensured women are well represented.
 
Although Japan is at the bottom of the Hays ranking, Jamie Cheung, programme director of the Masters of Human Resources Management at Hong Kong Baptist University, says it shows significant improvement on a decade ago.
 
“There are a lot more women in college now - you have to have that as a baseline. And there have been cultural changes. In the past, Japanese women had a peripheral status; they were expected to stay home and look after the family, but that is changing,” said Dr Cheung.
 
In Hong Kong, Dr Cheung says women make up more than half of university graduates and in her postgraduate HR class women account for 65 to 70 per cent of students. When these female students have graduated and gained experience, they will be seen among the senior management ranks.
 
Lam expects to see a surge of women in managerial roles within 8-10 years: “You have to observe the number of female graduates coming in. A lot of those in lower positions or graduates may progress to more senior positions, but they need time to be groomed and trained,” she said.