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The emerging importance of gender diversity in China

Female bankers

In 2012 female employees accounted for 42.7 per cent of China’s workforce, which is among the highest rates in Asia, according to the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF). But further progress is needed. A recent ACWF report on workplace discrimination shows that 20.9 per cent of pregnant female employees are forced to leave their companies or accept a lower salary. And 56.7 per cent of female college research students say they have fewer job opportunities than their male counterparts.

Rio Goh, senior manager, Michael Page Financial Services Shanghai, says: “Companies in Asia have a big focus on growth and business performance and need to ensure they have access to the best ideas and talent, regardless of background. Inclusion is about creating a work environment free from prejudice, so that everyone, regardless of their differences, can contribute their full potential toward business growth. Companies that do not understand diversity will miss out on innovation and talent and hence limit their own growth.”

Goh believes the main diversity challenge in China is a lack of awareness and information. “It’s a important topic in other regions of the world, and most companies and employees in China are starting to get familiar with it. When people think of diversity, the gender issue always comes up first, but it entails more than just the balance between male and female employees, it’s also about providing female staff the opportunities to grow laterally. Diversity also includes topics such as age, culture, and even differences in the opinions and skills that people bring to the workplace.”

KPMG ranked second worldwide in Universum’s 2011 World’s Most Attractive Employers list and is an advocate for diversity. Maggie Lee, human resources partner, KPMG China, says: “As a global firm, diversity enables us to better understand the global business environment. At KPMG China, we have people from different backgrounds and businesses, and it enables us to create better solutions for our clients. We want to make our staff feel comfortable in terms of who they are, therefore diversity is one of our priorities.”

She adds: “When we recruit people, we always emphasise their ability to work, their knowledge, and how they match the firm’s requirements. We don’t focus on their background, gender and nationality. As a result, we attract the right talent, no matter who they are. Our recruitment managers are also trained to avoid any discrimination.”

There are as many as 35 nationalities working in KPMG China, with women making up 61 per cent of the overall workforce and about 34 per cent of the partners. “We don’t have specific targets or KPIs related to diversity and inclusion management, but instead we focus on creating a supportive environment, including for working mothers. These include various policies, such as our flexi-work scheme and employee networking activities,” says Lee.

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