Asia Pacific more optimistic about gender equality at work than US, Europe

on Monday, 14 December 2015. Posted in Transform, Topical Issues, Press Releases



By Charmaine Wong on December 04 2015 4:03 PM

Office workers take their lunch breaks in the central business district in Singapore April 9, 2015. Reuters/Edgar Su

Businessleaders in the Asia Pacific are more optimistic than their American and European counterparts that women's equality in the workplace will be achieved sooner rather than later. 

A recent global survey of 222 leaders by human resources consulting firm Manpower Group found respondents from the Asia Pacific region, which includes Australia and New Zealand, believe gender equality in the workplace will be achieved in 13 years, compared to 17 years by participants in North and South America, and 19 years in Europe. 

Although those aged under 35 believed equality could be reached in about 21 years and male leaders aged over 35 believed equality could be reached in 14 years, Diane Smith-Gander, President of Chief Executive Women said it should be noted that the workplace has changed over the last few decades.

"The 20 something woman of today has a very different experience to the one I had at that age.  It’s more positive, more equal. There are fewer instances where a woman will be the only woman in any given work situation. But this is not a guarantee that by the time today’s 20 somethings are 40 somethings, they will continue to be experiencing balanced representation as the norm.  We need continued systemic change, driven by today's leaders and their teams," she said.

Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey, director of the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women, was wary real gender equity was feasible in the near future 

"I think the current trends seem to indicate that if we leave it up to the corporate world to achieve equality of their own accord, I don't think that pace is going to increase. We really need to look at how to overcome the glacial pace of change that is keeping women out of central leadership positions.”

Rather than a merit system, which relies on the assumption that potential leaders begin on a level playing field, Dr Rodgers-Healey suggested a quota system, supported by a cultural shift including flexibility and affordable childcare, to improve equality.

"Women are very much marginalised to begin with as leadership is gendered favouring a masculine style, so there’s a lot of bias around our style,” she said. 

“Unfortunately what is not focused on is that we do produce outcomes when given the opportunity in egalitarian contexts.”

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