Gender Bias in the Investment Profession in APAC

"When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become a wiser, more inclusive, and better organization."— Pat Wadors, Chief Talent Officer, ServiceNow

Women in the investment management industry in Asia Pacific still face gender discrimination in the workplace. According to the CFA Institute survey “Gender Bias in the Investment Profession in Asia Pacific“, women face challenges that are seen across many industries including the gender pay gap, too few senior female role models, a lack of dedicated mentoring opportunities, and not enough training in STEM. Alongside these issues, the survey found that women in the industry face common social pressures to prioritise family responsibilities and are still expected to ‘look and dress the part’ at work. 

Disappointingly, while 95% of respondents overall claim they advocate for gender equality, many still say it’s a taboo topic in the workplace. In Hong Kong, 83% of respondents claim they advocate for gender parity, but only 37% of men (vs 63% of women) indicated they would speak out about gender discrimination and inequality in the workplace. This is despite the fact that a third of respondents have witnessed gender discrimination and close to 15% have left a company for this reason.

It is vital that we work to eradicate this old and damaging taboo. Individuals and bystanders of any gender should speak up and be prepared to react when they encounter gender discrimination and inequality at work. However, employees need to be empowered to do so without fearing negative consequences. Employers must make it safe and easy with clear reporting mechanisms and a culture that values inclusion, open dialogue and learning. 

Despite these challenges, there is optimism. 48% of Hong Kong respondents believe that gender equality can be achieved in the next 10 years in the investment industry, progress that the CFA rightly states is “vitally important” for the future of the industry. They point to three areas for action: promoting equal pay, providing a safe environment to report discriminatory behaviour, and educating employees including senior leadership on these issues. 

At TWF, we are also optimistic that with effective, targeted action and open dialogue, we can achieve gender balanced workplaces in every industry, and we have several programmes dedicated to these aims. Our new cycle of Male Allies is launching this week, with 40 companies taking part and 225 senior leaders participating, advocating for gender equality at work, at home and across the city. Solutions to many of the challenges raised by this survey are part of their curriculum and discussions, with learnings and progress shared. 

Our Reverse Mentoring Pilot brings together protégés from our Mentoring Programme with senior leaders from our Males Allies Initiative to help the latter understand the challenges facing female employees and how to better lead their organisations into gender parity. Our Mentoring Programme and our Boardroom Series for Women Leaders all help to foster diverse female role models, champions for workplace gender equality, and a community that supports their efforts. It’s also important that we target some of the challenges mentioned by the survey as early as possible. This is why our Girls Go Tech Programme is equipping our next generation of women leaders with STEM skills and the knowledge about related career paths (including the finance and investment industries) they need to maximise their future job opportunities.

As employers, employees, active bystanders, and gender equality advocates — let’s work together to build inclusive and gender equal work environments that enable us to thrive as organisations and individuals.

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Written by

The Women's Foundation