Gender Diversity Must be at the Heart of COVID-19 Recovery Plans

"In diversity, there is strength." – Maya Angelou, poet

With the gradual lifting of COVID-19 measures, we have started to see signs of what appears to be Hong Kong normalcy: gyms reopening, long restaurant queues, and densely crowded buses and trains. While most of us are easing back into our former routines with cautious optimism, other aspects of society have been upended with far-reaching implications— particularly the altered landscape of the economy. As businesses grapple with complex and volatile conditions that will affect their long-term sustainability, it’s more important than ever that diversity and inclusion feature as a core element of both decision making and the building of our “new normal”.

Under normal conditions, we all know diversity in the workplace provides a host of benefits. Diverse teams are more innovative and creative; they tackle complex and unusual problems more effectively; and coupled with a culture of inclusion, diverse workforces retain a wider range of talent. On gender diversity in particular, McKinsey has noted companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are more likely to outperform on profitability and have better value creation.

These benefits that serve companies well in normal times place companies at an even greater competitive advantage in times of crisis. Identifying and capitalising on new opportunities in this new economic and social landscape will require tapping into the full spectrum of talent available. Diverse companies analyse a wider range of financial issues and impacts, which is particularly critical now. COVID-19 has also opened up new avenues for positive change including using our current remote work arrangements to rethink the metrics in which we measure performance, analysing data from virtual meetings to look for new areas where bias and exclusion might be present and creating more inclusive practices, and introducing the notion that flexible work arrangements can work for everyone. 

The far-reaching benefits of gender diversity in the workplace underscore several important areas of TWF’s work, particularly in our efforts to build a gender diverse workforce and gender responsive companies. From our Mentoring Programme and Boardroom Series for Women Leaders to our Male Allies Initiative and Reverse Mentoring Initiative, we are working to equip current and future leaders with the skills, networks, and mindset they need to successfully champion gender equality at their companies and in the community. But we are also working to mobilise gender equality champions in the wider community in radically new ways as COVID-19 has forced us to challenge the status quo. On June 11, we will be celebrating International Women’s Day with our very first virtual Lunch. Three months after the official date, we feel this is the perfect time to re-frame International Women’s Day – not as one day to recognise women’s contributions, but a reminder that gender equality is a mindset that we should adopt as a matter of course. 

We are in unchartered territory. As businesses and individuals, we have a unique opportunity to recalibrate and re-centre our values on building a gender equal, diverse and inclusive city. 

Don’t wait for the “new normal”. Let’s seize the opportunity and create it.

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The Women's Foundation