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Large multinational companies (MNCs) in China have the highest representation of women at senior levels in Asia, beating Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore.
These are the findings of the Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia 2014, which studied 32 MNCs employing more than 240,000 employees. Gender diversity was measured across junior, middle, and senior levels.
China ranks first in representation of women at the junior (64.9%) and senior levels (35.6%). Malaysia comes out on top in representing women in the total workforce (56.7%) and at middle levels (49.6%).
In fact, in all six markets studied, except India, women’s representation exceeds 50% at the junior levels.
China has noted significant improvement at the senior level, given its past performance of 20.7% in 2011 and 13% in 2009. However, the study also finds that the greatest leak in the pipeline is at middle to senior level positions, pointing to a glass ceiling in reaching top positions.
The leaking pipeline was a particularly worrying issue in India, at -45.9% from junior to middle levels, and -61.3% from middle to senior levels.
“While China’s economic growth creates greater opportunities for women to contribute, women also have pressure to work because of the rising cost of living,” pointed out Fern Ngai, CEO of Community Business, the not-for-profit organisation that conducted the study.
“In addition, the one-child policy means that daughters, as the only child, have access to the best education and are expected to pursue a career.”
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Flexible work arrangements seem to have taken ground, with 93.1% of the China respondents offering them. Flexible working hours (100%), working-from-home (70.4%), and part-time working (66.7%) were listed as the most popular arrangements. Other initiatives, such as support for working parents and women’s networks, were found to be below the regional averages.
Companies in Malaysia offered the shortest maternity leave and the least support in the form of women’s networks, on-ramping support, and professional development; yet they performed well on all data points.
“Many of our mental models related to women in the workplace must not only change but it is essential that men play a role in that process,” said Ralph de Chabert, chief diversity officer for Brown-Forman, that supported the study.
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“The report reminds us that, while the past few years have resulted in positive change for the representation of women, there’s still plenty of room for improvement,” noted Keerthana Mohan, head of diversity & inclusion at Google, also a study partner.