In Asia, rapid urbanisation, growing affluence, higher female education levels and lower birthrates have helped to boost female labour participation. However, many women are employed in the informal sector; and in the formal sector, while more women are entering the workforce comparatively few have ascended to higher professional and managerial positions.
Why is this the case — and does it matter? The reality is:
- While drop-out decisions are ultimately personal, in aggregate they deplete corporate and national resources
- There’s also growing evidence of the economic advantages of a more inclusive workforce
- And finally, diversity within the workforce has been credited with fostering innovative thinking and better leadership skills
In this study, Willis Towers Watson, in partnership with the Economist Corporate Network, explores what has held women back from progressing in their careers to leadership positions. The research found evidence of many structural and social pressures that could be contributing to this glass ceiling:
These factors all add up to a marked absence of women role models at senior levels, which has a profound impact on mid- and junior-level female engagement. And in a domino effect, lack of female workforce participation serves to further entrench an already male dominated work culture — which then serves as a deterrent for women to break into power networks.
Women in Leadership in Asia Pacific looks beyond these barriers to the key drivers for the successful advancement of women, including practical as well as psychological measures. For instance, respondents graded a conscious focus on gender balance on the part of senior leadership as the most significant driver for the successful advancement of women in an organisation, over and above more “practical” tactics:
While the road ahead isn’t clear yet, it’s heartening to see these issues on employers’ agendas, with its implicit acknowledgement that solving them is good for employees, it’s good for companies, and it’s also good for society as a whole.