Editor’s Note: Though many of our readers and writers tend to be US or UK based, the goal of Women of HR is to support all women in business, regardless of location. Today we are expanding our reach as our guest author takes a look at the challenges of women in business in Asia.
The business world in Asia needs to take a hard look at why many companies are still hesitant to hire women in leadership positions. Gender diversity in successful organizations has reached a point where women need to be brought into leadership roles. According to UN Women, the Asia-Pacific economy loses USD 89 billion every year by not cultivating the female workforce. This is only one of many reasons why women should be hired into the workforce as leaders.
Perceived Challenges for Hiring Women in Asia
There are a number of basic challenges that can influence Asian employers into thinking that hiring women complicates team synergies. The bottom line is these are just perceptions. Some of the difficulties that employers think they’ll face when hiring women include:
- Prioritizing family commitments
- Un-equal dedication of work hours as compared to male peers
- What-If Scenarios: What if they get married, what if they get pregnant, what if they move away?
- Effort required to become a female friendly workplace
However, don’t you think some of the same scenarios exist for men too? It may not seem like it but family is usually the number one priority for everyone. Challenges need to be worked out for both men and women and it’s unfair to think that just women will let you down.
Benefits of Women in Leadership Roles
More or less we understand the perceived challenges that employers may fear, including the ones listed above. However, the benefits of women in leadership roles and the specific talent they bring to an organization greatly outweighs the concerns.
- Experienced Multitaskers: Rather than taking a women’s requirement to juggle work and family as setback, one should consider that this actually makes them better project managers and team leaders. So much so that BBC covered the topic, scientifically proving that women are better multitaskers. Leaders should ask themselves, if the majority of their male leadership teams were replaced by women, would they actually achieve more?
- Extreme Dedication: Most Asian women know that getting a break in the professional world could come once maybe twice in their working careers. When they get it, their dedication is incomparable. They’re open to working from home, coming in on weekends and bringing their children to work. A report published by TalentCorp Malaysia and Acca revealed that the top 3 reasons why women leave work in Malaysia is:
- To raise a family
- Lack of work life balance
- To care for a family member.
As long as they’re given the opportunity to focus on both family and work they won’t let either one down.
- Different Leadership Styles: Teams in the workplace now want collaborative leadership styles rather than commanding ones. Certain character traits which are more dominant in women such as building relationships, listening and collaboration can create an environment which cultivates both team and company success. According to a survey conducted by HBR, 62% of respondents leaned towards hiring a male CEO unless the company was doing poorly in which case 69% wanted to hire a female leader. People understand that women make different leaders than men in a good way, they just don’t implement it regularly.
In an ideal world, women and men would be considered equal professionals – traits and perceived challenges would not be based on gender. However, anyone who has spent time working in Asia knows that we’re far away from this goal for gender diversity. How have you changed your workplace to be more female friendly, especially in leadership positions?
About the Author: Paul Keijzer is the CEO and Managing Partner of Engage Consulting in Malaysia, Pakistan and UAE. His primary focus is on transforming top teams and managing talent across Asia’s emerging and frontier markets. Download Paul’s Social Media Toolkit to Advance your Career