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Gender equality in the workplace is progressing unevenly in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore

Gender Equality in the Asia Pacific region

Gender equality in the workplace is progressing unevenly in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Equileap, the world’s leading provider of gender equality data and insights, has been commissioned by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to evaluate companies and publish a report on gender equality at work for APAC’s key developed economies – Australia, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Hong Kong), Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore. The research gives an update on gender equality in business across the region, including vital information on particular topics ranging from equal pay and female representation at all levels to paid parental leave and anti-sexual harassment policies. The study analyzed 1,181 enterprises, representing 23 million employees, in five marketplaces for gender equality using 19 in-depth criteria. The report is available on the Equileap and Sasakawa Peace Foundation websites.

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  • With the highest average gender equality score* in the area, Australia is the top APAC market for gender equality at work (46 percent vs APAC average of 33 percent and the global average of 37 percent )
  • Top achievers in each market are paving the way for gender equality in the workplace (Chart 1)
  • Hong Kong is home to the only firm (China Gas) that has eliminated the gender pay gap at all levels of the organization.


  • In the APAC area, women make up only 4% of CEOs and 5% of board chairmen.
    This is slightly lower than the global average of 5% female CEOs and 7% female board chairmen.
  • Only two enterprises in the region achieve gender balance at all levels of the organization.
  • Only three organizations have solved the gender wage gap, while 91 percent do not reveal it.
New ZealandXero63%
SingaporeCity Developments Ltd62%
Hong KongHang Seng Bank61%

Gender Balance

  • Women at the top of the business ladder are uncommon in APAC, with just 4% of CEO posts and 5% of Board Chair positions held by women. Singapore has the largest proportion of female CEOs and CFOs, with 14 percent of CEOs and 26 percent of CFOs being female. Women make up fewer than 1% of CEOs in Japan.
  • Gender balance remains elusive in APAC at all levels, with women accounting for 17% of boards, 13% of executives, 19% of senior management, and 35% of the workforce.
  • Only Xero in New Zealand and Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong were able to attain balance at all four corporate levels.
gender equality Asia Pacific

The Pay Gap & Sexual Harassment

  • In APAC, 91 percent of enterprises do not provide any information about the gender wage gap.
  • Only three firms have bridged the gender pay gap: Oil Search (AUS), Rio Tinto (AUS), and China Gas (HK), and only 4% have a plan to do so.
  • Five years after #MeToo, 57 percent of APAC organizations do not have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place. Japan (52 percent), Australia (50 percent), Singapore (26 percent), New Zealand (22 percent), and Hong Kong are the countries with the highest percentages of enterprises disclosing the policy (19 percent ).

Focus on the Financial Sector

There are some standout performers in the region, with five Australian financial businesses achieving gender equality rates of more than 60%. However, the overall impression is that the industry has numerous barriers to advancement for women, therefore the average score for organizations in this sector in the APAC area is 36% – somewhat lower than the worldwide financial sector average of 38%. Long hours interfere with family life and are common factors affecting equality. This implies that, while women make up 50% of the workforce, the number drops dramatically at the most senior levels of any given organization – out of 119 financial companies studied, there are only 8 female CEOs across the whole area. 65 percent of APAC financial sector organizations do not have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place, and no company has bridged the gender pay gap.

Diana van Maasdijk, CEO at Equileap: “It is perhaps unsurprising that such a diverse region produces such starkly diverse results. Companies in all five APAC markets are leading the way for workplace gender equality with scores over 60% when the global average is 37%. The world’s best-performing companies for gender equality in Australia (Mirvac on 79%) and Hong Kong has the only company regionally and globally to have closed the gender pay gap at all company levels (China Gas). However, overall, the state of gender equality in APAC is not good. Women make up just 4% of CEOs and 5% of board chairs in APAC, just two companies achieved gender balance at all company levels and just three companies in the entire region closed the gender pay gap. There is also a concentration of companies in Hong Kong and Japan with shockingly low scores across the board putting these two markets at the bottom of the global league tables.

McKinsey has highlighted that if APAC addressed this gender inequality it could add $4.5 trillion to its annual GDP by 2025. With that kind of prize at stake, APAC companies and investors should take action now. Most importantly, in a space where legislation is once again shown to be pivotal, governments should take the lead to create fairer workplaces that benefit everyone.”

Source: Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Equileap

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