Study: Hong Kong is dangerously hemorrhaging its top female talent

An exodus of female talent from Hong Kong businesses is costing the city dearly. Large organisations, in particular, are facing the largest departure of female talent at the top level, resulting in a loss of over half a million USD on average per senior leader, according to the newly released “Hong Kong’s Female Talent Pipeline Study”.

The study was developed by The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Business and Economics (HKU FBE) and Meraki Executive Search & Consulting.

Its findings state that Hong Kong companies stand to lose 45% of their female talent over the course of their time in operation, representing a huge opportunity cost; from a total workforce female representation percentage of 53% and a senior management level of 29%.

“At The University of Hong Kong, we see 54% women at the undergraduate level, yet despite the abundance of talent in Hong Kong, this study shows the female representation at senior management level in companies across the city, stands at only 29%,” said Prof. Haipeng Shen, associate dean, executive education, The University of Hong Kong.

“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.”

The study shows that smaller companies (employing less than 50 people) in Hong Kong, with 61% female senior management representation, attract senior female talent who require greater flexibility and time.” Lad said.

However large organisations (with more than 500 employees) in particular are facing the greatest challenge – they are at risk of losing, on average, 57% of their female talent over the course of their careers; from 52% total workforce female representation to 22% at senior management level. This will potentially result in a loss of more than US$500,000 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 / industries and not being recognised and valued, to the burden of family commitments,” said Kirti Lad, executive director, Meraki Executive Search & Consulting.

Hong Kong has some of the longest working hours in the world, with rife presenteeism and a lack of flexible or part-time roles in the city.

Lad suggested, in order to increase the participation of women in the workplace and to retain their skills and experience within the talent pool, employers need to rethink the structure of work – in terms of how, when and where employees work.

“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 said.

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