Gender Updates: Mental Health; Women & Political Leadership Research

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close, actress and producer

We hope everyone stayed safe in yesterday’s typhoon and are finding time to pause and recharge as we continue to adapt and re-centre ourselves in this prolonged, unusual period. 

Here are two important updates from this past week that intersect with gender:

Prioritising Mental Well-being 

This past Saturday marked World Mental Health Day, created by the World Health Organisation to raise awareness and mobilise solutions to address mental health problems -- an issue that has never been more important. The global pandemic has placed a significant strain on our mental health, particularly for women. While both men and women have been negatively affected by the pandemic, women were almost three times more likely than men to report anxiety, loss of appetite, insomnia and trouble finishing tasks. Additional caregiving responsibilities, disproportionate job layoffs, and emotional labour all contribute to this increase.

At TWF, we value the mental well-being of our staff and our community. As an organisation, we offer wellness leave and we foster a flexible working culture, particularly during recent challenges. Many of our programmes incorporate elements of positive psychology and mindfulness; during the height of COVID, we made virtual resource care packs to support mental well-being. We urge all employers to review their resources, policies and culture in a way that prioritises employee well-being and promotes education and awareness-raising around this critical issue. We have called on the Government to widely promote campaigns that de-stigmatise caring for mental health alongside providing more financial support to mental health facilities and clinics to meet the growing demand. 

Check out our new “Mental Health & Well-Being” section for more resources on mental wellness, and let’s continue to drive awareness and offer support to those that need it.

Women and Political Leadership Research

The Equal Opportunities Commission released a study last week examining Hong Kong public attitudes towards female political leadership. The results show that while the majority of respondents think men and women have equally good leadership qualities, there are still significant barriers women face in attaining these positions and gender stereotypes that influence public perceptions about their leadership characteristics and areas of expertise. 

Respondents listed several gender-specific obstacles women face while seeking political leadership roles: ‘domestic responsibilities’ (64%), ‘traditional attitudes of gender roles’ (55.9%), and ‘double standards’ (46.8%), while very few respondents believed men faced any gender-specific barriers.

In terms of leadership styles, men were thought to be more visionary and women more compassionate and collaborative. Gender stereotypes were also rife around the perceptions of leaders’ capability in different policy areas. More than half of respondents thought men were more capable in dealing with security affairs and economics, finance and trade, while a significant number of respondents believed that women were more capable in the areas of social welfare and education. 

Equal representation at senior levels of decision-making matters and is core to the work that we do at TWF. In policy-making, women’s representation helps advance gender equality and influences the range and types of policy issues discussed. We believe equal numbers of men and women should be represented in decision-making positions at all levels of society, and that this gender diversity should be reflected across all areas of policy-making from economics to education. 

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The Women's Foundation