Introducing the Women to Watch Platform

Boards are facing new challenges and opportunities: rapidly evolving technologies, human capital shifts, and sustainability issues. Companies need directors who provide fresh perspectives and innovative thinking – and diversity is key. Research has evidenced diverse boards are effective boards – they support stronger governance and strengthen an economy’s position as an international financial hub.

Hong Kong is not, on the whole, taking advantage of the benefits of board diversity – including gender diversity. Hong Kong is currently at 19% female director representation on Hang Seng listed boards, lagging behind regional and international financial centres by a wide margin. In Singapore, 23.7% of directors for the top 100 primary-listed companies are women, while Malaysia has reached 30.9% female representation on the boards of its top 100 publicly listed companies. Japan has 18% female representation on boards on its TOPIX 100 firms – up from 6% just five years ago and with targets of 30% by 2030 is poised to soon surpass Hong Kong. In the United States, 33% of directors for S&P 500 constituents are women. In Australia, this is 39.3% for ASX 100 constituents, and 42.6% of board directors for FTSE100 companies in the UK are women.

Just over six months are left to meet a requirement from Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) to end all-male boards and up to 425 female directors may be required to bring listed companies into compliance by 2025.

This is a helpful start to greater gender diversity on boards, but to truly embrace the benefits, one woman on each board is not enough. Instead, gender parity should be the goal. To increase gender diversity on listed boards long term, we need to engage in efforts to increase gender diversity across all boards in Hong Kong – from NGOs to schools and private companies.

This is why TWF and the 30% Club Hong Kong launched our Women to Watch (WTW) Platform last week, which connects senior women leaders with opportunities to become directors of Hong Kong companies. The Platform gives visibility to female candidates with the right experience and skills, and demonstrates the depth of board level female talent in Hong Kong.

The WTW Platform is accessible to listed companies, private equity firms, search firms, subsidiaries of multinational companies and select other stakeholders helping them access female candidates with the right experience and skills and demonstrating the depth of board level female candidates in Hong Kong.

There are currently an initial 250 profiles of women who have the right experience and qualifications to become board directors, but many of whom do not yet sit on one or multiple boards, and we aim to scale up the number of profiles on the Platform over the months ahead with our next intake of new applicants in September. For companies interested in applying for access to our Platform, please visit here.

We hope it will be a valuable resource to boards seeking to increase their diversity, to align with corporate governance best practice and capture the benefits of a broader range of perspectives. Together with the efforts of other like-minded stakeholders, we are confident Hong Kong can become a leader on board gender diversity.

Here are some recommendations to keep in mind for companies looking to diversify their boards, including in terms of gender:

  1. Be clear about what skillsets you need and then look beyond the traditional candidate pool – consider first time directors and diverse candidates with non-traditional backgrounds. Check out the WTW Platform to gain greater visibility into this talent pool.
  2. Promote a board culture that welcomes and seeks out diverse views and experiences.
  3. Contribute to diversifying the landscape – allow and encourage your own senior executives to take on external board roles if they are not already.

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PS Connect will be going on Summer Break until mid-August, but we’ll still be keeping everyone informed of upcoming opportunities and events to get involved with us so stay tuned!


Written by

The Women's Foundation