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Hong Kong's Female Talent Pipeline Study key findings launch on IWD2019

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

In partnership with The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Business and Economics (HKU FBE) we are very proud to announce the results of the Hong Kong Female Talent Pipeline Study.

On a day when the world’s attention is focused on women (International Women’s Day 2019), the Hong Kong Female Talent Pipeline Study reveals the true extent of the situation facing women in the Hong Kong workplace and the retention and hiring challenges facing employers. On average, Hong Kong companies stand to lose 24% of their female talent over the course of their careers, representing a huge opportunity cost (from 53% total workforce female representation to 29% at senior management level).

Less than half of Hong Kong leaders see diversity as a business priority and the study reveals a lack of courage and ambition within companies to strive for greater balance at the senior management levels.

“The fall out of female talent is a well-known challenge, but through this study, we have taken a magnifying glass to Hong Kong’s female talent pipeline, investigating a number of key industries. The picture is stark” said Kirti Lad, Executive Director, Meraki Executive Search & Consulting. “The study has captured the systemic bias that exists in Hong Kong – many companies appear comfortable with having so few women at senior level. This is what we found most shocking and we hope the data will serve as a wake-up call to the Hong Kong business community to take action. Although the majority know they need to do more to address the issue, many are still finding it a challenge to transform the business culture to one of inclusion. We also recognise the efforts of some companies in challenging the status quo of how we engage, empower and develop diverse talent - this we applaud and encourage more of these behaviours.”

Prof. Haipeng Shen, Associate Dean, Executive Education, The University of Hong Kong, said: “As an institution at the heart of Hong Kong we are committed to ensuring the ongoing progress of our city. At The University of Hong Kong, we see 54% women at the undergraduate level, yet despite the abundance of talent in Hong Kong, this study shows the female representation at senior management level in companies across the city, stands at only 29%. Companies benefit from the wealth of talent on offer in Hong Kong at entry to mid-level management, only to slowly lose female talent through the ranks as they drop out of the workforce or seek greater flexibility. Typically, local Hong Kong companies are behind the curve in terms of seeing diversity as a business priority. It’s time for change. As a first step, all Hong Kong companies need to ensure their female talent pipeline data is tracked.”

Key findings from the Hong Kong Female Talent Pipeline Study include:

Diversity is not seen as a business priority in Hong Kong:

More than half of Hong Kong companies are not even actively tracking their female talent pipeline data – of the 200 companies engaged in the study, just over a quarter are tracking their female talent. Despite gender diversity being considered as a business imperative on the worldwide stage, a declining birth rate and aging population in Hong Kong, companies in the SAR seem intent on continuing to underutilize a valuable core segment of the workforce – women.

  • Only 45% have made a formal commitment to improving the representation of women in the workforce.

Large corporates are experiencing female brain drain:

Large organisations employing more than 500 people in Hong Kong have an average of 22% female representation at senior management level, in comparison to small organizations (those employing less than 50 people) at 61% female senior management representation.

  • Smaller companies in Hong Kong are benefitting from this trend due to the flexibility and stretch opportunities they can offer. They are attracting senior female talent who require greater flexibility and control of their time and an increasing desire to be part of a culture where their contribution and potential is valued.

Hong Kong systemic bias – losing women from the talent pipeline is seen as acceptable:

On average, companies in Hong Kong see a 24% decline in female representation in their workforce from total representation to senior management. There is an attitude that this is acceptable. Many companies don’t recognize they have a problem with the management of the female talent pipeline, yet in reality only 28% exceeded the Hong Kong average across all levels of management.

9 out of every 10 Hong Kong women report barriers to reaching their career aspirations:

We surveyed over 100 women at different stages of their career. From family commitments, to a lack of promotional opportunities in their companies / industries and not being recognised and valued, women in Hong Kong share their stories of the uneven playing field they face.

The construct of work is ripe for disruption – how, when and where employees work requires a complete overhaul:

Hong Kong has some of the longest working hours in the world, presenteeism is rife and there is a lack of flexible or part-time roles in the city. In order to increase the participation of women in the workplace and to retain their skills and experience within the talent pool, we must rethink the structure of work – in terms of how, when and where employees work.

Lad continued: “Having worked with The University of Hong Kong, FBE for more than seven years we are delighted to partner on this valuable research. We look forward to expanding the study into other Asian markets to enable us to benchmark Hong Kong’s progress in future years.”

For more information, key findings from the study or a copy of the report, please visit:

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and working together to achieve greater gender balance in the workforce.

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