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Advancing Hong Kong's focus on achieving greater gender balance in the workforce

Industry Spotlight


Retail sector

As one of Hong Kong’s most female friendly industries it is no surprise that the majority of retail companies report a raft of initiatives to support and advance female talent.  67 per cent of companies cited the most effective initiative being flexibility, followed by mentoring and proactive career planning (33 per cent).


All retail companies see gender diversity as a business priority regardless of if they have made formal commitments or not (50 per cent have formal commitments, 50 per cent have not but it is seen as a priority internally).

Industry Spotlight



Consultancies in general are ahead of the curve in terms of retention figures with only 10 per cent highlighting senior management and 20 per cent highlighting mid-level management as the ‘greatest problem’. Small consultancies (those with under 50 employees) report the least problems with retaining talent.  The consulting sector, alongside the insurance and banking sectors are the most advanced in terms of rolling out initiatives that specifically address the female talent pipeline such as mentoring and sponsorship programmes and talent development coaching.


Hiring females at the senior management level presents the greatest problem for half of consultancies (50 per cent).  Many consultancies are focused on ‘growing their own’ through the ranks to counteract this issue.  This also serves to stabilise the teams and reduce turnover, plus produces expectational female talent with wide functional expertise and a deep understanding of the company itself.


50 per cent of consultancies highlight flexibility at work / support with work life balance as the most effective initiative in retaining female talent.  40 per cent have made no formal diversity commitments but gender equality is seen as a priority internally, and the remaining 60 per cent have made extensive formal commitments.

Industry Spotlight


Financial Services / Insurance / Banking

Banking and Insurance

Banks and insurance companies have made extensive formal commitments to improve the representation of women within their ranks.  They also report the largest array of initiatives to support female talent.


Insight from a bank from the survey: “In view of the varying priorities, needs and preferences among female talents when coming to career development at different stages of their career, all of the initiatives play an integral part in ensuring fit-for-purpose development both professionally and personally.”


Most report they have ‘no problem’ or ‘a small problem’ retaining talent.  Only 17 per cent of banks and insurance firms report the retention of female talent at the senior management level the ‘greatest problem’.  The majority also indicate they have no problem hiring in external female talent across the board, mainly due to their strong employer brands.


Initiatives such as BNP Paribas and Goldman Sachs returnship programmes for finance professionals looking to return to the world of work in Hong Kong, are positive steps forward.  HSBC also offers 16 weeks maternity leave (well above the current statutory requirements in Hong Kong).

Financial Services


However non-banking and insurance, financial services companies are generally lagging behind and represent one of Hong Kong’s least gender balanced industries: 


For financial services companies the retention problems start early in the talent management pipeline with 57 per cent reporting that entry level talent retention poses a ‘small problem’ and 72 per cent reporting that retaining female talent at early management responsibility presents ‘somewhat of a problem’ or ‘quite a problem’.   86 per cent report the greatest problem at mid-level and senior management.


Interestingly, in the majority of financial services companies (38 per cent), HR is responsible for driving the diversity agenda, with a further 25 per cent not having a specific function that is responsible.  Companies that report the most promising female talent pipeline figures, highlight the need for senior management involvement, the drive shouldn’t simply be the responsibility of one function, but company-wide.

Industry Spotlight



The industrial sector in Hong Kong is the least gender balanced.  Less than half of industrial companies recognise diversity as the business priority it is, as a result there are few initiatives focused on managing the female talent pipeline in particular. Remote / flexible working, for example is not considered the norm – as one respondent noted: “Remote working is only [offered] on a short term basis and subject to job suitability”


Mid-level management represents the greatest retention challenge for industrial firms  (50 per cent) followed by senior management (25 per cent) and board (25 per cent). Senior and board talent represent the greatest hiring challenge for industrial organisations in Hong Kong, with 50 per cent identifying these stages as the biggest problem.


An interesting trend in the space is that a number of companies (50 per cent) highlight that work for females is not stretching enough.  As one company respondent shared: “We have initiatives in place to advance career progression on paper, yet management lacks interest in following through, so women quit.” 


It is important to note that there are some outstanding leaders in the industrial sector as firms such as Schneider Electric, Philips and GE (all major employers in Hong Kong) are seen as global diversity leaders.  They have diversity champions at CEO and board level focused on ensuring their organisations achieve strong diversity positions.

Industry Key Findings

Hong Kong's most gender balanced industries:

Retail (at 79 per cent total workforce female representation), Consulting (62 per cent), Hospitality & Leisure (61 per cent), represent the most friendly industries to women in Hong Kong.

Financial Services - excluding banking and insurance (40 per cent), FMCG (42 per cent) and Industrial / Telecoms (43 per cent) represent the least gender balanced.

Industries ranked by senior management female participation:









The Retail sector also comes out on top when ranked by senior management female participation (standing at 60 per cent), alongside the NGO sector (60 per cent) that comes from a lower total workforce figure.

The Industrial sector has the lowest representation of women at senior management level (at just 2 per cent).  For more information see Industry Spotlight #4.

Industries ranked by female talent retention and progression:





The NGO sector is performing strongly in terms of enabling female talent to flourish and develop (seeing a 6 per cent increase in female representation from the total workforce representation to Hong Kong senior management).

All the other industry sectors we examined in detail see a decrease in female representation through their ranks.

Return to the study key findings page here:

HK Gender Balanced Industries
Industry ranking by senior management
Industry ranking by talent retention
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