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Why Hong Kong senior female talent are drawn to smaller companies

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Large organisations in Hong Kong with more than 500 employees have an average of 22% women at senior management level, while small organisations, which employ less than 50 people, have about 61% female senior management representation, a study has found.

“Smaller companies in Hong Kong attract senior female talent who require greater flexibility and time,” says Kirti Lad, executive director at Meraki Executive Search & Consulting.

Professor Haipeng Shen, associate dean in executive education at the University of Hong Kong, says of the unbalanced distribution of female talent in Hong Kong that although there is 54% female at the undergraduate level, the female representation at senior management level in companies across the city stands at just 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 and environments where their contribution is valued,” Shen says.

Overall, Hong Kong companies stand to lose about 45% of their female talent over the course of their careers. This results in a huge opportunity cost from 53% total workforce female representation to 29% at senior management level.

For large organisations, an average of 30% of their female talent opt out of the workforce before reaching senior management, resulting in a loss of more than half a million US dollars, on average, per senior leader.

“Nine out of every 10 Hong Kong women report barriers to reaching their career aspirations. From a lack of promotional opportunities in their companies or industries and not being recognised and valued, to the burden of family commitments,” Lad says.

Lad urges employers to rethink the structure of work, in terms of how, when and where employees work, in a bid to increase the participation of women in the workplace.

“Without concerted focus on managing the female talent pipeline, companies stand to merely reinforce the status quo, losing out on opportunities to challenge conventional thinking and drive innovation and business transformation,” Lad says.

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