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Inspire Asia Pacific: Engaging men in the gender diversity agenda

Hong Kong, September 2014 -- The Inspire Asia Pacific network held its third annual event on 4th September 2014 at the China Club, Hong Kong. More than 60 female leaders from across the region gathered for the evening, to discuss actions that can be put in place to engage more men in the gender diversity discussion.

For the first time, Inspire decided to open its doors to a few very special guests in the form of a number of male champions of change from companies such as Bloomberg, Brunswick, Goldman Sachs and BNY Mellon. The select few were invited because members of the Inspire network are aware of the need for business transformation but the support of male champions of change is central to this journey.

Representing a range of sectors - including retail, finance, insurance, technology, education and nonprofit - members of the Inspire network came together to discuss what is effectively driving engagement and what is preventing it from taking hold, in addition to what can be done to engage more men in the debate to drive change.

The keynote speaker Teresa Ko, China Chairman of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer - gave a brilliant and insightful speech, sharing her experiences from her career to date.

"The Inspire network brings together board leaders from across industries to share knowledge and expertise to serve to drive the gender diversity agenda forward. Our events are always highly inspirational and positive, and our latest Hong Kong event was no exception," said Kirti Lad, Director at Harvey Nash Asia Pacific and Leader of the regional Inspire network. "The gender conversation has moved on and in Asia Pacific we recognise that the key to progress is engagement. Our latest Inspire survey demonstrates the value and importance of male champions of change in inspiring others to take action on this issue."

Many female leaders at the event shared their views with the on-site film crew, exploring what more can be done to enhance progress in the gender diversity agenda and how we can engage more men in the conversation:

  • The vast majority of respondents to the 2014 Inspire survey agree that progress in achieving gender balanced boardrooms across the Asia Pacific region has stalled (83%). Of the 17% that disagreed, 5% of them felt that it never got started!
  • Reasons for the lack of progress are widely believed to be that the noise is dying down in the media, men are not engaged in the conversation enough, and many Asia firms are family-controlled with long held traditional values. One respondent highlighted: "There is still a lack of understanding in Asia of the competitive advantage diversity can bring".
  • The top 5 factors identified as holding the gender diversity agenda back are: 
  1. It is not recognised as a priority within the business 
  2. There is not enough buy-in from top management 
  3. Men in the organisation are not engaged 
  4. Women are still overlooked for promotion at the senior level 
  5. Women are not putting themselves forward because of a lack of confidence or because of other responsibilities.
  • The main driver for organisations to prioritise diversity is because the CEO or Head of the business is fully engaged, followed by HR championing the issue. A number of respondents acknowledged that their organisation has yet to get the diversity agenda off the ground.
  • Respondents identified the top 3 biggest challenges faced in driving the diversity agenda forward as, a lack of influence over the priority setting (33%) secondly, not enough female talent available with the required skillsets (27%) and thirdly, a lack of visible female role models that others can emulate within the business was third with 20%.
  • When asked what can be done to engage more men in the gender diversity agenda, many identified the importance of opening up women's initiatives to men to actively encourage participation. Appealing to those men with daughters was also highlighted as a key issue.
  • The question of how we can move the agenda forward highlighted lots of insights such as the importance of making initiatives such as the 30% Club more visible, enforcing regulations to ensure all companies publish their diversity results. Engage men in the debate more. Women need to take responsibility and put themselves forward
(Source: Inspire Asia Pacific Survey 2014)

The next Inspire event is planned for early 2015.

About Inspire:

Inspire is Harvey Nash's executive business network of board-level women. Launched in 2008 with the aim of promoting female leadership, the network has over 4,000 members across the UK, Continental Europe, the U.S. and Asia Pacific. The cross-industry network aims to enable members to contribute ideas, share knowledge and best practice and hear from senior business leaders, providing a forum for support and career guidance.

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