As we celebrate International Women's Day 2023, promoting gender equality and diversity presents a valuable opportunity for the corporate community in Asia to act as a catalyst for social cohesion, celebrate women's achievements, and drive gender parity.
According to Grant Thornton's 2021 Women in Business report, the proportion of women in senior management roles in the Asia Pacific region is 29%, slightly lower than the global average of 31%. While some progress has been made towards building diverse and inclusive workplaces, there is still much work needed to create truly inclusive environments, especially for women.
There is however no one answer to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices, as the context differs between countries. With over 40 countries, more than 2,300 languages and dialects, numerous religions and forms of government in the region, companies from large multinationals to small local companies face different challenges to establish and achieve their DEI objectives for women.
For instance, how should multinational companies handle DEI when their global headquarters mandate more diversity objectives in Asia? Is it the best approach to recommend that businesses adopt a regional approach to their DEI strategy to promote the empowerment of women in Asia?
Unlock Diverse Perspectives to Create a More Inclusive Workplace
For diversity and inclusivity in the workplace to be effectively addressed, it is crucial to be purposeful in the workplace and to gain buy-in from women. The goal is establishing an environment that provides equitable, fair, and transparent opportunities for all.
One approach is to consider the unique cultural and societal nuances of Asia. This will ensure that DEI initiatives are tailored and effectively aligned with local values and practices, promoting women's empowerment in Asia. For instance, this can involve implementing measures that support women's life events, such as childcare leave, or providing them appropriate transportation alternatives to the workplace, or hybrid work options to support their work-life needs.
Another approach is to value diverse perspectives, which naturally leads to a more demographically diverse workforce. An inclusive culture fosters an environment where women feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work and trust that their voices will be heard where it matters. Additionally, hiring women from diverse backgrounds and into non-traditional roles can stimulate a diversity of thought by indirectly impacting group dynamics leading to new or fresh perspectives into innovation and increased appreciation on how our innovation and solutions would impact on women, who are increasingly the world’s most powerful and discerning consumers. Developing and empowering female talent is a win-win for businesses and for our society.
As part of that approach, building a solid career development and succession pipeline for women within the company is important. By doing so, companies can leverage a wider pool of talent and diversity, leading to improved decision-making, ideation, and consequently, better business outcomes. Singapore's impressive record of gender equality in the workplace is a prime example for the rest of the region to follow. With 14% of women CEOs and 26% of women CFOs, Singapore is leading the way in demonstrating gender diversity and inclusion in senior leadership positions. Additionally, Singapore has the highest percentage of women in the overall workforce in the region, at 44%.