"No one who achieves success does so without the help of others.”— Alfred North Whitehead, English philosopher
As we come to the end of a challenging yet hopeful year, it is a good time for us to reflect on how far we have come, and how far we still have to go, to achieve gender equality.
This year we have seen increased awareness and progress around several of our long-running advocacy efforts, with headlines about gender equality appearing with the same frequency as Brexit. In particular, it has been gratifying to watch the breadth and depth of global discussion on sexual harassment and sexual assault following the #MeToo movement, and its many related campaigns that are continuing the momentum: #TimesUp, #HearMeToo, and #BelieveSurvivors to name a few.
In Hong Kong, Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposal to extend maternity leave from 10 to 14 weeks is welcomed by all of us but challenges remain as many women may experience the widespread “motherhood penalty” with less than half of employers in Hong Kong saying they will hire women with children.
The new Hong Kong Stock Exchange rule that all listed companies have a board diversity policy is an important step, but much more is needed when, in a city teeming with talented women, only 14.3% of Hang Seng Index company directors are female.
We are proud of our achievements over the past 12 months. The ninth year of our T.E.E.N. Programme for underprivileged boys and girls to challenge gender stereotypes is underway; we’re in the fourth year of our Girls Go Tech Programme supporting girls in pursuing traditionally male-dominated STEM subjects to maximise their future career options; we have seen the astonishing growth of our Male Allies Programme– men who have joined us in putting Hong Kong on the map of a global movement to re-imagine equality; the tenth year of our best-in-class cross industry Mentoring Programme for Women Leaders and the launch of our Boardroom Series for Women Leaders. We also teamed up with the 30% Club HK to launch a light-hearted video “Flipping the Script” to highlight the lack of gender diversity on Hong Kong boards.
None of our success would have been possible without the unwavering support and contributions from our dedicated partners, donors, volunteers, staff and supporters. A heartfelt thank you to you all.
However, our journey towards equality is still a long one. My own inbox is full of messages from women being harassed at work, who have discovered that they are paid less than male counterparts, and whose careers have stalled upon their return from maternity leave.
To accelerate our progress, we will continue to build on the successes of 2018 and work with a diverse mix of stakeholders– government, corporates, media, academia, and other like-minded NGOs and advocacy groups – to continue to challenge gender stereotypes and make Hong Kong a city where women and girls can truly thrive.
And we know we cannot talk about advancing women and girls’ empowerment without engaging men and boys in the conversation. To expand that vision, we plan to embark on a study of boys’ attitudes towards gender in Hong Kong– cutting-edge research that will underpin a new TWF programme based on interventions that work.
We are also planning to roll out a Digital Literacy Programme for Disadvantaged Parents and Girls that aims to empower disadvantaged parents with fundamental digital literacy and to support their daughters to fulfill their personal potential in an increasingly technology-driven world.
Again, thank you for all of your support throughout the year for our critical work. We can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in 2019.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.