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Morning Coffee: A good hubby and helper – keys to success for female Hong Kong bankers?

Hong Kong leads in gender diversity

Just need the helper now

If you’re a female banker in Hong Kong, having a supportive husband and a good domestic helper are crucial ingredients to career success – so says Citi’s country business manager of global consumer banking, Christine Lam. “I have a very supportive husband, and I rely on domestic help like most other families in Hong Kong,” Lam told the South China Morning Post. Once the hubby and maid are in place, Hong Kong women should be able to rise more easily up the banking ranks. “The [gender] discrimination I see most often is within the women themselves. They do not believe they can do the job and as a result tend to shy away from the opportunities,” adds Lam.

Banking recruiters we spoke with late last year agreed that the wide availability and affordability of live-in domestic workers in Hong Kong and Singapore makes it easier for professional women in those cities to continue their careers after they have children. In an eFinancialCareers global survey released in September, 81% and 77% of female respondents in Singapore and Hong Kong respectively said that gender discrimination did not exist within their current employer – significantly higher percentages than in the US (54%) and UK (63%). And in a survey released last week by research firm Prequin, Hong Kong recorded the best gender equality in the hedge fund sector globally – almost 13% of senior roles at single-manager firms are held by women, and 28% at fund of hedge funds managers.

But while the data indicates that Hong Kong women in finance face fewer discriminatory obstacles than their counterparts in Western markets, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that banks in the city still have to work on improving gender diversity. Goldman Sachs’ co-head of human capital management in Asia, Kate Aitken, believes that the attitudes of male bankers are stifling the careers of their female counterparts. In an interview with the Australian Financial Review late last week she described the issue of gender equality in investment banking as “hand-to-hand” combat.

“Too many times I see so many of our fabulous programmes that have nurtured these women along and we have done all the right things and they don’t get the gig because the guy thinks that ‘Actually, she is not quite ready and I have this guy over here’” Aitken told the newspaper.

Lau Ka-shi, chief executive of pensions firm BCT Group, agrees that banks in Hong Kong sometimes assign the best tasks to male staff. She told the SCMP about her early career at a US bank in the city: “The mind-set of management was that they asked the guys to go and meet clients while as a girl, I was supposed to do the in-house work. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise as credit management is a very important function of the bank.”

Meanwhile:

Shanghai looks to narrow the senior salary gap with Hong Kong. (South China Morning Post)

From “relative obscurity in Hong Kong to global omnipresence” – new book sheds light on rise of HSBC. (Guardian)

No more slide decks at Westpac? “I am seriously considering turning PowerPoint off completely,” says new boss of Aussie bank. (Australian Financial Review)

Do Western compliance standards always work well in Asia? (Business Times)

Singapore’s big push into commodity trading continues as clearing houses expand. (Bloomberg)

Singapore government’s SkillsFuture initiative tries to tackle concerns about foreign firms pulling out of the country because of the manpower crunch. (Channel News Asia)

Employment rates for local Singaporeans rise at fastest rate in a decade. (Straits Times)


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