By Director of Leadership and Diversity and Lead, Grant, Marketing and Proposal Writing
Research confirms what many business leaders have long known: companies that empower women as leaders and cultivate gender-diverse cultures perform better. They are also better able to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse customer base, of which a significant portion are women.
Yet, despite global commitments to improve gender diversity, women remain underrepresented at all levels in the workforce, with a marked decline in participation as career level rises.
In many ways, Southeast Asia is outperforming much of the world regarding women’s participation in the workforce. In research funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)—conducted in Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines—Women’s World Banking found that in some regions of Southeast Asia, women participate at roughly the same rates as men, but those numbers vary vastly across the subregions. In lower-income areas, the labor participation rate for women is nearing equality to men. But, in middle-income regions, the gender gap is more pronounced. A 2012 International Business Report notes that the Southeast Asian region performs better than the global average in both number of women in senior management positions and the number of women chief executives. This is in contrast to Asia’s rate of women comprising only 15 percent of executive and higher roles (versus 20 percent globally). Some hypothesize this is attributed to financial necessity and the large number of family-owned businesses, which contribute to more women assuming corporate roles.