SINGAPORE – Across Asia’s six major economies, only one in five women could share a positive gender parity experience in a recent survey. In fact, these women seemed to be much more optimistic about the prevalent gender parity practices than the on ground reality. 

These were among the findings of a recent study conducted by Nineby9, an initiative launched earlier this year in Singapore with the aim of achieving gender parity across Asia by 2030. The study also doubles as its first annual report on the issue. Titled ‘Gender Parity in Asia: The Moment of Truth’, it was conducted in collaboration with research firm Kadence International, Yale-NUS College and online research firm Dynata. The results were based on interviews of 500 women each in China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore between July and August 2021. 

“As Asia exercises its political, economic and cultural influence on global trends, organisations have the opportunity for unprecedented economic growth fueled by a young, innovative and diverse talent pool. To leverage this opportunity, harnessing the full talent pool, across genders, will be key,” said Dr Vinika D Rao, executive director of INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute and Gender Initiative and Asia director for Hoffman Global Institute for Business and Society in the foreword of the report. 

She went on to talk about how the covid 19 pandemic has adversely impacted gender balance in the workforce, especially in some Asian countries where gender norms already put a greater burden on women. “By highlighting the concerns of working women across six Asian nations, this report provides timely insights into the unique challenges they face and possible solutions at organisational and individual levels,” she added. 

The report came up with nine truths and nine actionable items. The findings included were:

  • While a majority of Asian women surveyed believe they have access to the same career opportunities and get paid equal to their male counterparts, the numerous global surveys paint a very bleak picture on this front 
  • Overall, 20% women had positive gender parity experiences wherein a colleague went out of the way to make them feel equal
  • 76% respondent didn’t look at bringing gender equality policies in the workplace as their problem 
  • 65% women thought speaking up or pushing for their rights could have negative impact on their careers 
  • 79% women listed growth as their primary career goal 
  • 80% of the respondents said they felt more loyal towards managers who espoused gender parity 
  • Most women agreed that unconscious bias was a big hindrance to their growth 

The report also came with suggestions to overcome each of the problem areas. For this, they had three solutions each for the three stakeholders – the company, the manager and the individual. At an organisational level, this can be done by showing visible proof of the commitment to gender parity like by amplifying stories of female leaders and creating policies that support the needs of female colleagues. Male colleagues should also be encouraged to participate in the gender equality movement; they must speak up against any discriminatory behaviour against a woman at work. 

Managers, meanwhile, can support their female team members by ensuring that the gender parity policies are implemented well. They can also recognise and commend contributions of all team members, irrespective of their genders. Most importantly, team leaders must recognise the fact that women would usually be carrying a lot of caregiver load, and therefore help them achieve better work-life balance. 

The individuals also need to fight their own battles on some fronts including changing their own beliefs about gender dictating one’s career choices. In their quest for career enhancement, they must actively seek out mentors. Women are also advised to speak up and be their own advocates when it comes to issues like promotions, work-life balance, health needs, sexism and discrimination at the workplace.