Women in leadership: Pushing for more gender diversity in Asia

By Robert Half 25 September 2014

There’s a push for more gender diversity in Asia at the higher rungs of the corporate level. What is needed for more women to rise to the top?

A worldwide study found that only 3% to 4% of those sitting at the CEO level are women. It’s a startlingly low percentage, considering the constant push for greater gender diversity.

As a director myself and a champion of female leadership, I do not deny that women in leadership roles have had to work hard to fight against the status quo. It’s no surprise that we would have to work even harder to break into – let alone shine in –predominantly-male industries like technology and finance.

This is evidenced by the recent employment information released separately by Yahoo! and Google; at 37% and 30% respectively, the employment rates for women remain incredibly low. In the finance sector, the percentage of female leaders is even lower – the figure stands at 13% at Morgan Stanley, 18% at JP Morgan Chase, and 15% at Goldman Sachs Group.

That’s not to say it’s pointless for women to pursue big career ambitions. On the contrary, the above statistics work to give impetus to our pursuit of empowerment and recognition, driving us to further assert ourselves in the workforce. Just take a look at some of women in leadership roles from world’s most powerful companies:

  • Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
  • Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo!
  • Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
  • Meg Whitman, Chairman, President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard
  • Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s

I came across another study that I believe will encourage more women to strive for leadership roles within a job they love. Termed “The DNA of Women Leaders”, this year-long study – conducted by Caliper, a Princeton-based management consulting firm, and Aurora, a London-based women-only leadership development organisation – profiled more than 60 women leaders from major global companies including Morgan Stanley, Deloitte & Touche, Deutsche Bank, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and Ernst & Young. Their profiles were then matched to those of men in similar job titles.

Based on the findings, women in leadership roles tend to have an inclusive style of leadership when it comes to solving and making decisions, which stems from their openness to listening and sharing information. Women leaders are also quicker and more willing to learn from adversity, take risks, as well as embrace challenges. From these findings, the study suggests that the combination of women’s inherent traits is forming a new paradigm of leadership – one that could only bode well for our future.

I would like to end with a quote from the illustrious Hillary Clinton, whose fight for female leadership never fails to inspire millions of women around the world:

“Too many young women I think are harder on themselves than circumstances warrant. They are too often selling themselves short. They too often take criticism personally instead of seriously. You should take criticism seriously because you might learn something, but you can’t let it crush you. You have to be resilient enough to keep moving forward, whatever the personal setbacks and even insults that come your way might be. That takes a sense of humour about yourself and others. Believe me, this is hard-won advice I’m putting forth. It’s not like you wake up and understand this. It’s a process.” – Excerpt from Hillary Clinton’s speech at Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit 2014.

Remember, the job you love can take you to the top of your career regardless of gender.

Make your days count when you love what you do.

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