60% of female professionals in mainland China believe that family pressures and commitments outside of work is the primary reason for the lack of women in leadership positions in business, according to the latest whitepaper from international recruiter Robert Walters entitled ‘Empowering Women in the Workplace’.
Although women make up almost half of the workforce in many countries, they continue to face issues limiting their career growth trajectory.
According to the survey, 80% of female respondents in Asia Pacific (ex-Japan and Korea) thought that women are under-represented at work; only 32% of respondents agreed that women make up more than one-fifth of leadership positions in their organisations.
Family a Key Concern for Female Professionals
This under-representation of women at work can be attributed to various reasons, such as workplace culture, management preference, and family reasons – a standout factor in mainland China. 60% of female professionals cited family pressures and commitments outside of work as the main reason women are under-represented in business (versus 50% in Asia Pacific), while 45% cited difficulty returning to work after having children (versus 36% in Asia Pacific).
“Traditionally, women are expected to take up more parental duties over men. This is particularly apparent in China as family is an important part in Chinese culture. Since the adoption of the two-child policy, there have been concerns that women might be viewed less favourably in interviews or promotions as some companies are worried that maternity leave will increase costs,” commented Matthew Bennett, Managing Director – Greater China, Robert Walters.
Empowering Women in the Workplace
To unlock the full potential of the women in the workforce, it is important to identify what helps to develop them at the workplace.
In mainland China, female professionals believe that mentoring and sponsorship at senior management levels is the most helpful measure (64%), followed by the opportunity to network with senior management (60%).
“As gender diversity has proven to improve team performance and success, leaders in every organisation should take the lead in ensuring that the views and needs of all employees are well-represented. Our research has shown that professionals value the opportunity to interact directly with senior management, companies can consider organising more networking events that allow employees to communicate with different stakeholders in the business,” said Bennett.
In a 2016 working paper by Peterson Institute for International Economics , women in most societies are more likely than men to take on the dual pressures of work and family, and are expected to do so. In societies clear of such cultural bias, women continue to choose to assume a greater share of child care and household responsibilities.
“As recruitment specialists, we believe that professionals should be assessed based on their skills, experience and fit for the role. At a time when the demand for top talent continues to outstrip supply in the market, organisations should highlight their belief and policies in promoting gender diversity as a part of their talent attraction and retention strategy,” added Bennett.
A cohesive strategy for supporting women during maternity leave and providing a structure for their return is vital in combating any loss of productivity or employee attrition. More importantly, companies can extend both adequate leave and flexible working options to working fathers to encourage them to share the pressures of keeping up with family commitments.