“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.” - American psychologist Abraham Maslow
In this month of May we are witnessing both progress and setbacks for diversity around the globe. From marriage rights and gender diversity on boards to reproductive freedoms, these issues have sparked debate, affecting different communities of women and men with equal measures of concern and hope.
Here are three highlights to put on your radar:
1. Hong Kong - Good news for Women on Boards: We are delighted that last Friday, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) issued groundbreaking new Guidance requiring companies seeking to list on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong through an Initial Public Offering (IPO) to provide additional disclosures on board gender diversity. Where a company seeking to list has a single gender board (read: all male board) the company will need to explain how and when it will achieve gender diversity on the board, what measurable objectives it has set to implement gender diversity and how it will develop a pipeline of female directors.
Currently one third of all listed companies in Hong Kong do not have a single woman on their Boards. Women comprise a woeful 13.1% of Hang Seng Index boards. We believe this measure is an actionable way to shift the statistics for impact in the world’s top IPO market. Hong Kong is moving and we are thrilled!
HKEX has also issued a public consultation to review the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting Guide and related listing rules. This important consultation emphasises the Board’s leadership role and accountability in ESG and proposes to require disclosure of social KPIs on a "comply or explain" basis. This data includes the workforce population, turnover rates, training hours, and a new addition of full or part time status, all of which is disaggregated by gender. TWF will be analysing the proposals in detail and composing our response to the consultation, which we will share with the community soon.
2. Taiwan - Same Sex Marriage Legalised: Last Friday, Taiwan became the first territory in Asia to legalise same sex marriage. Passed by a comfortable majority of 66-27, while there are still restrictions around child adoption and marriage to foreigners, this was the most progressive of the three bills being considered and is a positive step forward for the LGBT+ communities in Taiwan and the region.
In North America, recent developments have been concerning.
3. United States - Restrictions on Reproductive Rights: Over the past few months, several states in the U.S. have introduced legislation that limits the conditions under which a woman can undergo an abortion. Last week, Missouri and Alabama both passed bills which, if they become law, would not allow a woman to get an abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Both bills contain lengthy prison sentences for doctors who illegally perform abortion, with Alabama’s bill proposing a prison term of up to 99 years, decades longer than the maximum sentence for a person convicted of second-class rape, sexual abuse or incest.
These local, regional and international gains and losses in gender rights alternately uplift and restrict all of us. At TWF, we know it’s important for Hong Kong to stay plugged in to global conversations – to consider how these trends might affect us and use this momentum to actively engage on building the best version of this city for everyone.
One thing we can see for sure; the world is changing. Where it lands will depend on each of us. Will you step forward into growth or retreat to “safety”?