addressing gender diversity.

March 27, 2018 Anthea Collier

the need to grow women leaders in APAC.

Almost a decade ago, the term “womenomics” entered our lexicons. The notion of “womenomics” emphasizes that women’s economic advancement will improve an economy as a whole.

There is a strong business case for more women entering the workforce. The Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum (WEF) states that the global GDP could be increased by $5.3 trillion USD by 2025 if the gender gap in economic participation increases by 25% over this period.

Research also reveals that businesses with more gender diversity are showing an increase in their bottom line, as there is a greater chance for innovative business solutions to come from a broad spectrum of employees. And, companies with a gender diversity priority take into account the various needs of all their talent, not just the majority; this includes making the workplace safer for women.

Countries across the globe have recognized the need to improve gender diversity in the workforce and have put in place economic policies or enacted laws, though these vary in their effectiveness. Iceland, for an example, has already taken a serious step toward this goal. As of 2018, organizations and government agencies are required to receive certifications to prove that equal pay is provided for female and male employees, and they face fines if they do not.

revealing statistics in APAC.

To improve their gender diversity, organizations need to put in place talent strategies that not only improve their female talent pipeline but also fortify a culture of inclusivity and advancement. According to the WEF, this would ensure a “virtuous circle, eventually leading to more equity of economic opportunity for women globally.”

Currently, figures for women in leadership positions across the globe are dismal. For example, in 2017, there were only 32 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. These figures vary regionally too. Statistics in the APAC region show that there is a long way to go when it comes to gender parity in leadership roles, as well as wages.

There are a multitude of reasons for the low figures in the APAC region, though they vary by country. These range from socio-cultural barriers (e.g., the idea that women are primary caregivers, which leads to women leaving work after marriage or childbirth) to a lack of anti-discrimination or equal pay laws.

Let’s take a closer look at some of APAC nations, such as Australia, Japan and Singapore, regarding senior leadership roles. The Global Gender Gap index shows:

  • senior positions such as legislators, senior officials and managers.
    Australia, 31.8%; Japan, 12.4%; Singapore, 34%
  • women in leadership roles in publicly traded companies.
    Australia, 20%; Japan, 3.4%; Singapore, 8.3%

Perhaps the figures are more indicative of socio-cultural barriers, especially in Japan, where the percentages are lowest. Recently, the country has been trying to get more women into the workforce – for example through Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Abenomics – but it has been slow work.

Despite having an equal pay law, Australia has a wide wage gap — men earn an estimated $26,000 a year more than women. In Japan and Singapore, where there are not equal pay laws, similar gaps exist. In Japan, men have $26,000 more in estimated earned income than women, and in Singapore, the median gross monthly income of men is 18% higher than women. The good news is the pay gap is getting smaller in Singapore, decreasing 6.3% for managers from 2012 to 2016.

taking a step in the right direction.

Organizations that are interested in improving their gender diversity and increasing the number of women leaders can consider the following steps:

  • step one: diagnose.
    Examine the current state of gender equality in your business. Develop a roadmap to reach your goals, identify KPIs and figure out how to measure key milestones.
  • step two: develop.
    Reassess what leadership skills the organization needs and values. Create distinct career paths for female employees to transition to advanced leadership roles and train them in the negotiation skills critical to their career success.
  • step three: educate.
    Train all employees, regardless of gender, on second-generation bias, Draw on an individual’s strengths and capabilities, rather than judging by stereotypes and traditional norms.
  • step four: create a purpose.
    Identify what “great” looks like and anchor female employees’ development efforts with a sense of purpose, rather than through how they are perceived. Find ways to elevate their ideas and achievements, such as ‘amplification,’ and provide them support with mentoring and coaching.

    For example, global sportswear giant, Adidas developed a support network. With a 50% female workforce, 31% of women make up the company’s management positions. Adidas also boasts an online platform for conversations called, “Women Talk,” a virtual monthly interview series with inspiring female leaders within the company.
  • step five: reward.
    Recognize and reward leaders who demonstrate that diverse abilities create a more effective workplace. One example includes the “Japan Women Award” by Forbes Japan. The business magazine awards female entrepreneurs and companies working to promote gender equality in Japan’s corporate world. Special awards include one that acknowledges achievements in changing the traditional corporate mindset.

So what is your company doing to support and grow its female leaders? Perhaps this well-known quote by Sheryl Sandberg may serve as inspiration: “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

Find out how a diversity & inclusion strategy can help you drive better business outcomes, and check out some of the ways Randstad Sourceright is helping to advance women in the workplace within our communities. 

about the author

Anthea Collier

As managing director, Asia Pacific for Randstad Sourceright, Anthea Collier brings 25 years of experience supporting regional and global recruitment clients across Asia Pacific and the United States. She is passionate about recruitment technology innovation and focused on aligning talent strategy with client organizational productivity improvements.

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