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Morning Coffee: On Wall Street I was told to ‘dress like a man’, says leading HK female finance professional

Gender discrimination in Hong Kong

A female banker's wardrobe in 1982

Alexa Lam, the former deputy CEO of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission, has told Asian Investor why she thinks Hong Kong is a great location to work in as a female finance professional.

Lam, who has also worked in New York and Chicago during a 33-year career, told AI that her home city is more welcoming of women in finance than many other major banking hubs are. “I started working in the US in 1982, which granted was a long time ago,” she said. “I was told I had to wear a suit and the suit had to be dark, in other words behave like a man and dress like a man. I always like to dress in colourful clothes and today it’s a lot better, especially in the financial services space. The fact is, Hong Kong is very open and accepting.”

Lam believes gender discrimination among younger finance professionals in Hong Kong has all but disappeared because they were themselves largely raised by working mothers. “Their view of women should be different from my generation, so that when they deal with women in the workplace, whether as peers, subordinates or bosses, they should not be looking at this relationship through the prism of male or female, but just as colleagues,” she told Asian Investor.

And if you do encounter discrimination as women in finance? “Just ride over it,” Lam said, quoted in a South China Morning Post article earlier this month. “In Hong Kong, the situation is a lot fairer and there are sufficient people who don’t have a problem with women.”

In an eFinancialCareers global survey about employee diversity conducted last year, 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%). The wide availability and affordability of live-in domestic workers in both cities makes it easier for professional women in those cities to continue their careers after they have children.


Southeast Asian expansion makes sense for Bank of China (HK), say analysts. (South China Morning Post).

Behold the top-five richest men in Asia. (Straits Times)

How HSBC’s Hong Kong headquarters tore up the architectural rule book. (Guardian)

DBS plots a cashless banking boom in Singapore. (Business Times)

Nomura sees end to overseas business losses. (Reuters)

Maybank reports higher Q1 income. (The Edge)

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