Limited progress in diversity says Hays report

The Diverse Agenda

More women are in line manager roles in Asia but the broader diversity and inclusion (D&I) agenda needs greater support in many organisations, according to a report from Hays. The research is based on a survey of women and men working in a range of industries where Hays supports businesses. The survey was carried out in March and April this year with participants based in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.

A total of 58 per cent of participants said they report to a male line manager which is an improvement on last year when 63 per cent of respondents reported to a male line manager. Malaysia had the highest proportion of respondents reporting to a female line manager (46 per cent) and Japan the lowest (28 per cent).

On the downside, the Hays research found there was a perception amongst a significant proportion of participants that access to pay, jobs and career opportunities for those of equal ability could be hampered by factors such as gender, life choices, race and disability.

“Actively supporting for diversity is having a greater impact on the quality of an employer’s brand amongst today’s employees and job hunters,” says Grant Torrens, business director of Hays Singapore.

“Whether it is deserved or not, we were alarmed by the number of respondents that believe their organisation does not provide equal access to rewards and opportunities because of factors that have nothing to do with work ability.”

Overall, less than a third of participants (32 per cent) believe colleagues of equal ability have the same access to career opportunities in their organisation regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, family commitments, marital status, race, religion or sexuality.

Hong Kong had the highest proportion of respondents who do believe career opportunities are available equally (39 per cent). At the other end of the scale, Singapore had the largest number of respondents who believe access to career opportunity is not equal in their organisation (25 per cent).
Equal pay was another thorny issue with only 30 per cent of respondents across all of our operating markets believing employees of equal ability are rewarded equally.

Employers got the best assessment from participants in Mainland China where only 12 per cent said pay and rewards were not awarded equally to those of the same ability. Participants in Singapore were again the most dissatisfied with 26 per cent reporting equal pay for equal ability was not the case in their organisation.

“Unfortunately we also found that 63 per cent of respondents believe their leaders are favourably biased towards employees who look, think and act as they do,” says Grant.

“The increasing complexity of most industries today means companies need a constant pipeline of new ideas and ways of doing things if they are to gain a competitive advantage. A diverse workforce is the key to ensuring a company can not only adapt to changing conditions but leverage that change to keep building on their success,” he says. “Word of mouth amongst employees and candidates is an important attraction tool but it can just as easily have a negative impact if there is a perception pay and promotion are not merit based.

“Our research shows employers need to do more to check unconscious bias when recruiting and promoting. Equal pay also needs active support to ensure employees and candidates alike have confidence that hard work and strong performance are the keys to success – not being of the same gender or background as their manager.”

We also asked participants if there had ever been an occasion where they had felt their chance of being accepted for a job had been lowered because of their age, disability, ethnicity, gender, family commitments, marital status, race, religion, or sexuality.

More than half of all respondents told us they had experienced discrimination at some point in their career. Amongst our operating markets, the highest proportion of respondents who felt their chances of being accepted for a job had been impacted by a factor outside ability were in Singapore (62 per cent), followed by Hong Kong (55 per cent), Malaysia (50 per cent) and Japan and Mainland China (both 49 per cent).

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