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Gender balance remains elusive

Although progress has been made, equality between male and female professionals remains a critical issue in China.

According to a survey released by global recruitment specialist group Hays on Tuesday, [Hong Kong Company Registration Guide]women are less likely than their male co-workers to believe that pay equality and equal opportunities exist for both genders in the workplace.

Hays polled 521 professionals in China, 55 percent of whom were female. Only 7 percent of women aged 25 or under think there is gender inequality of pay. But as they progress in their career, that number increases. About 29 percent of women aged between 26 and 40, and 35 percent of women aged 41 or above think there is gender inequality of pay.

In general, transport and distribution, mining and resources, as well as professional services, drew the most negative answers among both male and female professionals concerning equal pay.

But the majority of polled men think that the situation is not that bad, as only 13 percent of them think that equally capable men and women are not paid or rewarded equally.

"This suggests that most people in executive and senior management roles��the majority of whom are men��still fail to see any inequality when it comes to pay and career opportunities between the sexes. This makes it difficult to see how we will see any significant advancement in this area while the majority of people in senior roles do not recognize it as an issue," said Christine Wright, managing director of Hays in Asia.

In terms of career opportunities, 64 percent of the respondents think that the same career opportunities are available regardless of gender. But when it goes deeper down to study the answers of each gender, it is found that 47 percent of the women said that the same career opportunities were not open to equally capable colleagues of both genders, while only 24 percent of the male interviewees responded similarly.

However, the results in the Chinese market were better than the global average. But this is not a result of Chinese companies' spontaneous efforts to improve workplace equality. The incredible pace of growth in China and the skills shortage in the job market mean that "the country does not have the luxury to discriminate by gender", said Wright.

But it cannot be denied that most companies in China have been supportive of gender diversity policies. About 60 percent of the respondents working in the financial services sector said their companies have a gender diversity policy in place, followed by construction, property and engineering, and information technology and telecommunications.

Lawrence Lee, [Hong Kong Company Formation & Registration]human resources vice-president for greater China and Mongolia at Hilton Worldwide, said that the company has networking and mentoring programs for female staff, as well as gender equality in its Leadership Committee dedicated to better understanding the needs of female employees. Reflecting the result of Hilton's efforts in this regard is the fact that 51 percent of the leadership positions in China are now held by women.

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