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Women in Power: Challenging the Status Quo and Defying the Stereotypes

March 14, 2017

Cultural diversities have made its impact felt on growth of businesses owing to differences and competition across markets, thus posing challenges to innovation. Besides which, lack of support networks to encourage more women assume leadership positions have always impeded progression of women in workplaces across Asia and globally as well. This has allowed the gender pay gap to permeate further and stunt growth prospects for women.

In an exclusive conversation with HR in Asia, Madeleine Price, Managing Director – Asia, Talking Talent shares some interesting anecdotes from her experiences, while giving us a bird’s eye view on the compensation benchmarking strategies in Asia that result in gender pay gap, and the need for more diversity and inclusion practices in organizations. Read on…

  • What are the bottlenecks to accelerating growth and focus on innovations in Asia?

There are significant cross-cultural complexities that effect growth across Asia, such as the differences and competition between local markets. The political and regulatory landscape in Asia is constantly evolving and extremely varied, it contains both energetic multi-party democracies and repressive regimes. True growth and innovation in Asia requires an understanding of these issues and the influences they have.

Asia is also facing a human-capital challenge, which will hinder growth across many industries and sectors. There is lack of female professionals and leaders, and the programs dedicated to developing female talent which are firmly embedded in the US and Europe are only just being established in Asia.

Madeleine Price, Managing Director - Asia, Talking Talent

Madeleine Price, Managing Director – Asia, Talking Talent

Enabling growth by focusing on innovations that tackle this human capital issue will be the key, as will placing emphasis on agile working practices, the use of technology, and the digital economy.

  • How can organizations in Asia develop compensation benchmarking strategies to bridge the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap remains a challenge for working women in Asia. Closing the gender pay gap will provide more opportunities for women, which will in turn provide additional skills and resources and help Asia’s growth overall.

On average, women tend to earn 30 to 40 percent less than men. Just last week, I was listening to a debate in Hong Kong and a speaker pointed out that women could justifiably stop working on August 22, and take the rest of the year off as essentially that was all they had been paid for, unlike their male counterparts.

Clearly, there is no one solution, different regions and situations may require different approaches. Organizations can start to bridge the gap by monitoring statistics relating to the pay gap, for example: the percentage of women working at each level – promotions, hires, salary increases, and bonuses, etc. Once pay disparities have been identified, they must be brought to the notice of the leadership team who can then work on strategies for corrective action.

To bridge the gender pay gap, organizations in Asia need to work on a multi-tier approach such as developing strong pipeline of women and encouraging them to ask for what they are worth, as well as making sure that these are women in management positions, and participating in robust benchmarking to ensure best practices.

  • Why are women still underpaid for skilled job roles, which require same competencies as their male counterparts?

If the remuneration structure of the company is designed to recognize top performers and key talent, there should not be any gender disparity. Nevertheless, on an average women indeed earn less than men and that’s partly because men and women tend to do different kinds of work.

Research has highlighted that, on average, women are likely to be employed in roles with a less competitive pay level, whereas men tend to have jobs which are related to the company’s revenue stream.

In our experience, men are also more likely to put themselves forward for a role, whether or not they tick all the boxes. Women often feel the need to be more than capable of doing the job before they apply. Many business leaders have the attitude, ‘go for the job and worry whether you can do it later’— and this does not necessarily come naturally to all women (or all men).

This difference in attitude also applies to requesting a pay rise.Men are generally more comfortable than women about asking for more. Sometimes women also hold back in going for promotions, if, for example, they are planning a family.

And this naturally reduces the number of women in queue for senior roles. Additionally, women are not always assigned the quality work required to progress to the next level, pointing to biases in how work is allocated.

See: Leadership Challenge: Women Fall Behind Early and Continue to Lose Ground

  • What are some of the women leadership development initiatives at Talking Talent to encourage more women into the talent pool?

Talking Talent provides expert frameworks to create inclusive cultures, and the specific levers to deliver sustainable change. We design tailored coaching interventions, which act as catalysts and inspire organization-wide behavior shifts.

Whether it’s supporting working parents through the transition, developing female leadership skills, or consulting more broadly on inclusion and diversity practices, we collaborate to deliver the best results for our clients and their people.

Our job is to really unlock potential within diverse talent pools and ultimately transform the culture of an organization. In order to do this in a truly sustainable way, line managers are integrated into every coaching intervention to assist systemic change within the organization.

  • Are there any Back to Work programs designed for women to bring them back into the workforce, by offering them flexi-hours and remote working benefits etc.?

I have come across a number of back to work programs throughout my time in Asia. In Hong Kong for instance, several financial institutions run back to work programs, as do local providers who help women prepare to re-enter the workforce.

Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong have designed a returnship program specifically for those, who left the workforce for two or more years and are ready to return. It’s a paid, ten-week program, offering opportunities in a variety of departments and the chance to experience the whole organization.

In my previous HR management roles, I also actively recruited women who had been on back to work programs for senior and mid-level positions.

  • How can organizations create an effective talent succession plan?

Organizations should be regularly review their key roles and develop their key talent to progress into new roles. Talent planning involves initiatives focused on a range of issues, from monitoring progression, to allocation of quality work, and introducing training and development plans.

  • What are the gender-diversity and inclusion programs developed at Talking Talent?

All the products that Talking Talent offers are excellent aids for developing key talent. Also when designing initiatives to support effective talent succession plans, we provide coaching and mentoring services, to help develop inclusive managers and sponsorship programs.

  • How can Talking Talent support working parents and especially new mothers to still pursue a growing career, despite life changes and achieve work-life balance?

Talking Talent is at the forefront of developing the female talent pipeline through innovative coaching and consulting programs. We have over twelve years’ experience and we have coached thousands of men and women. Our team is passionate about increasing the opportunities available for women, and we are absolute believers in the commercial and individual benefits this brings.

As a mother of two young boys, I want to grow and sustain a successful career while remaining fully involved with my children’s upbringing, so I am a huge supporter of Talking Talent’s philosophy, programs, and company values.

  • Under your leadership, what will be the EVPs and employee engagement strategies to attract and hire the best at Talking Talent?

Talking Talent’s values are: intrepid, inclusive, and inquisitive. To me these are fundamental to our attracting, engaging, and retaining the best coaches. The truth is that we’re an exciting company to be part of right now. We have an impressive global clientele list, an excellent set up and we are primed for growth into new markets.

We offer the opportunity to be part of an incredibly supportive team, engage in meaningful work, and ultimately make a difference. Our values also inform our working practice. We believe in investing in people through coaching, and encourage agile working and entrepreneurial thought.

  • How can men act as gender advocates to encourage more women into boardrooms, through training and development programs?

There are some very active groups of male gender advocates in Australia and Asia.  The Male Champions of Change, for example, is a coalition of 25 Australian CEOs, NEDs, and community leaders. It was established in 2010 by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick.

Their mission is to step up and stand beside women in working towards a significant and sustainable increase in the representation of women in leadership.

A similar group called Male Allies of Change has been set up in Hong Kong in liaison with The Women’s Foundation, with which I was involved in my previous HR roles. Each male ally makes a personal pledge to achieve change, as well as initiating and driving change within their own organization.

A man might pledge to keep highlighting gender equality issues, advocating for women, or actively encouraging women’s voices. A particularly great example is ‘The Panel Pledge’—wherein a man who makes the pledge is promising to ensure that there is gender balance on any panel, on which he speaks.

Also read: In Conversation with Datuk Alexandra Chin: Empowering Women to Assume Leadership Roles in South East Asia

Image credit: Freepik

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