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APAC companies are seen to be taking the lead in gender diversity: Survey

APAC companies are seen to be taking the lead in gender diversity: Survey


13% of CEOs surveyed in Singapore are women, followed by 8% in Hong Kong.

The pandemic's onset in recent years has undoubtedly forced organisations to adapt and redefine their leadership strategies in order to remain at the top. 

According to a Heidrick & Struggles survey released on Thursday (29 February 2024), APAC companies are seen to be taking the lead in gender diversity and favouring cross-border exposure among CEOs. 

The annual study, titled Route to the Top 2023, analysed 1,221 CEOs at the largest publicly listed companies across the globe, with 225 appointments made within the APAC region, including from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore markets, between 2022 and 2023.

The demographics of respondents are as follows:


  • There are 110 CEOs sitting in Australia. 
  • The Hong Kong market has 85 CEOs.
  • In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), there are 38 CEOs.
  • 30 CEOs sit in Saudi Arabia.
  • Similar to Saudi Arabia, Singapore also has 30 CEOs. 

The data collected from the survey was categorised into five factors — demographics, diversity, education, C-suite experience, and appointment type. 

The key survey findings for each category within the APAC & Middle East region are below: 


  • 15% of women in Australia share the CEO role. 
  • 13% of female CEOs are from Singapore. 
  • Hong Kong saw 8% of female CEOs. 
  • 5% of CEOs that are women are from UAE.  

The data revealed a slight growth in gender diversity among CEOs compared to the previous year, with 8% of global appointments going to females. As found, the APAC region continues to progress in gender parity, with 12% of the CEO appointments being female. Australia and New Zealand (15%) remain at the forefront, leading across the Americas, Europe and Africa, and APAC region, almost double the global average (8%). Singapore maintains its previous year’s figure, with 13% of appointed female CEOs.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, showed slower growth, falling behind the rest of the APAC markets. As noted in the findings, given that a significant proportion of Heng Seng Index companies are from traditionally male-dominated industries such as finance and properties, only 8% of appointed CEOs are female in Hong Kong — highlighting the continued work needed to promote gender diversity and foster a more inclusive business environment.


  • 63% of CEOs in Hong Kong hold an advanced degree, with 32% carrying a Bachelor's or the equivalent, and 5% holding no degree.  
  • the UAE has 50% of CEOs with an advanced degree, 42% carrying a Bachelor's or the equivalent, and 8% holding no degree.  
  • Saudi Arabia had 47% of advanced degree CEOs, 33% Bachelor's or the equivalent, and 20% holding no degree.
  • In Australia/ New Zealand, 45% of CEOs hold an advanced degree, 50% and carrying a Bachelor's or the equivalent.
  • Singapore has 44% of CEOs with an advanced degree, and 43% carrying a Bachelor's or the equivalent.

C-suite experience

  • UAE has the most number of CEOs who have experience in some type of C-suite role at some point in their career (95%)
  • Singapore comes second with 90%.
  • Australia/New Zealand has 86% of CEOs with C-suite level experience. 
  • Saudi Arabia follows closely behind with 83%.
  • Hong Kong has 66% of CEOs with experience in some type of C-suite role. 

Appointment Type 

  • UAE 39% of CEOs who joined the company one year or less before being appointed their roles.
  • Australia/New Zealand has 35% of external appointments.
  • In Singapore, only 23% of CEOs have been appointed with one year or less experience.
  • Hong Kong ranks slightly lower than Singapore (21%)

Overall, the survey findings revealed that Hong Kong companies are more open to employing CEOs without prior C-suite experience (34%) compared to other APAC markets (21%).

However, Singapore prefers more experienced CEOs, with 90% having prior C-suite experience and 83% previously holding the position of a CEO.

Companies in Australia and New Zealand reflect this pattern with the highest share of CEOs with prior CFO (32%) and COO (28%) experience, therefore surpassing the regional averages of 20% and 23% respectively.

READ MORE: Is your grievance handling process disability friendly? | Human Resources Online

Lead image / 123RF

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