Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2010

  • Asia's Workforce: The Female Factor

    Monday 13th September 2010 - 2:00pm - 4:30pm

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  • Asia's Workforce: The Female Factor

    The number of women and men graduating from Chinese universities has reached near parity; however, less than 20% of leadership positions are held by Chinese women.

    With similar trends in Japan and South Korea, how can business and government work together to seize these new employment and growth opportunities?

    Key Points

    • The problem of discrimination for women requires a custom-made solution depending on the country and environment; there is no “one size fits all” answer.

    • Not only do men and women need to be educated on the career potential of women, but corporations need to be educated on the values and advantages women can bring to their business.


    Although women are leaving their mark these days – as attested by Hillary Clinton, Eleanor Kagan and Sarah Palin on American politics – women still remain woefully underrepresented globally in the halls of power. In China, they make up only 3% of village heads or vice-heads; in India, only a miniscule percentage of CEOs are women; and Japan ranks especially low in the business world when compared with the United States and Europe.

    The reasons are manifold. Women bear the social and cultural responsibility to ensure that their children are raised properly. In the workplace, they often lack a support system and adequate mentoring. One participant mentioned the struggles Taiwanese businesswomen face: their male colleagues cannot help them achieve and their female colleagues do not help them because they are too focused on their own survival in the enterprise. Compounded by the dearth of female role models and the perception of a glass ceiling in most industries, the failure of women to achieve high positions is in many cases a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Solutions need to be implemented on national, institutional and individual levels. One female lawyer described how her firm works its employees very hard in their fourth, fifth and sixth years, complicating the ability for female employees to juggle their careers and their families. She advocated educating women and their partners on relinquishing the societal expectation that a woman needs to manage childcare, freeing them to pursue their careers.

    For those women who choose to leave work to start a family, an alumni programme would allow them to remain engaged. Modelled on successful university alumni outreach efforts, the programme would provide a network of former employees and support to ease the transition back into the workforce. To encourage firms to implement this system, publishing a database of firms that comply would allow women to select this perk and would have the added benefit of shaming companies that do not offer the programme.

    A female lawyer cited the example of the publication The American Lawyer, which mentions all of the firms that contribute an adequate amount of pro bono; the legal industry collectively recognizes the importance of making that list. A Japanese firm instituted a system whereby a woman employee’s supervisor would mentor her and help the employee feel like she has a path and a future in the company.

    Other Key Takeaways

    Media and television can show that a woman’s place is not just in the home. Companies can allow mothers to continue working part time or from home. Everyone can be a part of the solution.

    Discussion Leaders

    Cynthia Eng Chew

    , Chief Executive Officer, North East Asia, Adecco, People's Republic of China

    Mitsuru Claire Chino

    , Corporate Counsel, Itochu Corporation, Japan; Young Global Leader; Global Agenda Council on Values

    Annie Koh

    , Associate Professor of Finance and Dean, Office of Executive and Professional Education, Singapore Management University, Singapore

    Christopher Ng

    , Regional Secretary, Asia and Pacific, UNI Global Union - Asia & Pacific Regional Office, Singapore

    Kapil Sibal

    , Minister of Human Resource Development of India

    Facilitated by

    Tian Wei

    , Anchor and Host, China Central Television International (CCTV-9), People's Republic of China


    This summary was written by Isaac Stone Fish. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum.

    Copyright 2010 World Economic Forum
    No part of this material may be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or redistributed without the prior written consent of the World Economic Forum.

    Monday 13 September

    Keywords: Women, employment, education, equal opportunity

Facilitated by

  • Tian Wei Tian Wei
    Moderator and Host, CCTV News, China Central Television, People's Republic of China

    Formerly: Correspondent, Washington DC; covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, Moderator a...


  • Mitsuru Claire Chino Mitsuru Claire Chino
    Executive Officer and General Counsel, Itochu Corporation, Japan

    Mitsuru Claire Chino is Executive Officer and General Manager of the Legal Division of Itochu Corpor...

  • Kapil Sibal Kapil Sibal

  • Annie Koh Annie Koh
    Vice-President, Office of Business Development; Academic Director, Family Business Institute; Professor of Finance (Practice), Singapore Management University, Singapore

    1988, PhD, Int'l Finance, Fulbright Scholar, New York University. With Singapore Management Universi...

  • Cynthia Eng Chew Cynthia Eng Chew
    Head, China, Adecco, People's Republic of China

    Since 1988, with Adecco Group: several senior positions including Country Manager and Regional Zone ...

  • Christopher Ng Christopher Ng
    Regional Secretary, Asia and Pacific, UNI Global Union - Asia and Pacific Regional Organisation, Singapore

    1976, joined Apro FIET Secretariat as Assistant to Regional Secretary; 1986, elected Regional Secret...