Knowledge Center: Publication

Boards & Governance

Women on Boards: Hong Kong 2017

3/28/2017 Florence Chan, Fern Ngai and Matthew Yu
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Women on Boards Hong Kong 2017

These findings are part of a study conducted by Community Business, a Hong Kong nonprofit specializing in corporate governance, in partnership with Heidrick & Struggles; the 2017 report is the latest in a series that began in 2009.

First the good news

The proportion of women serving on corporate boards in Hong Kong rose slightly in 2016. Among the top 50 companies listed on the Hang Seng Index (HSI), women represented 12.4% of directors in 2016, up from 11.1% in each of the two preceding years. The number of HSI companies with all-male boards also dropped.

Furthermore, for the first time one-fifth of the top 50 companies have reached 20% or more female representation on their boards. This is an important milestone in light of the recent interim goal set by Hong Kong’s 30% Club to increase the percentage of women directors on all HSI company boards to 20% by 2020.

Now the bad news

Progress is slow and driven by the actions of precious few companies. Of 80 new board appointments in 2016, only 9 were women. The total number of women executive directors (board members who are also employees of the company on whose board they serve) has been stagnant over the past eight years—having only risen by 4 since 2009. While Hong Kong performs better than most of its Asian counterparts, it’s falling further behind other developed markets in terms of board gender diversity.

Looking ahead

Solving these problems will require a host of actions—starting with deeper commitment from company leaders, as well as real accountability (for example, by setting specific goals and targets to improve gender diversity at all levels).

The report also features interviews with leading regional directors, who offer insights on progress and levers to increase board diversity in Hong Kong.

For the full report, click the download link above.

About the authors

Fern Ngai is chief executive officer of Community Business, and Matthew Yu is a program manager for Diversity and Inclusion at Community Business. They are based in Hong Kong.

The authors wish to thank Heidrick & Struggles’ Alain Deniau, Karen Fifer, and Steve Mullinjer for their contributions to this report.

Related thinking

Winning the war for talent in China’s “new normal”

Getting board diversity out of the doldrums

Building an effective and diverse board: Lessons from Asia

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