How organizations can advance gender parity in post-pandemic Asia

Oliver Tonby, chairman in McKinsey’s Asia offices and co-author of Future of Asia, outlines the five key areas organizations should focus on to advance gender parity in the region.
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Companies in Asia can and should continue to put gender equality at the center of their agendas. This is more important than ever in light in of the pandemic. COVID-19 has dealt a serious blow to gender equality in Asia.

A few facts: women in the region and globally have been nearly twice as likely to lose their jobs as men. They have borne the brunt of increased burden, of unpaid care work. They have moved backwards in terms of digital and financial access. We know that it’s not just women who will suffer; gender equality and economic growth go hand in hand.

Our new research on gender equality and COVID-19 supports this. We see that taking action on gender equality could add $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030. For Asia, if all countries in the region match Singapore’s standards, we could see a $4.5 trillion boost. We also know that with no action to counter the regressive shock of COVID-19, global growth could actually decrease by $1 trillion by 2030. Companies actually stand to gain thanks to diversity dividends. We know that companies with the most diverse executive teams are more likely to have higher profitability.

There’re five key areas to focus on when it comes to gender parity. Number one, boosting female labor participation. Number two, addressing women’s underrepresentation in business leadership. Number three, closing gaps in women’s access to digital technology. And number four, the same when it comes to access to finance. And, finally, changing attitudes about women’s rules. Governments can support women through education policy, through targets, through fiscal measures.

But companies play a particularly critical role in delivering change. To do that, companies need to embed gender diversity from top to bottom. Put in place processes that back up these goals. Provide flexible workplaces and practices. Provide mentorship and networking opportunities for women.

Business leaders with vision will find opportunity in the current disruption. Now is the time to reinvent our workplaces and practices. Keeping gender equality at the center of the agenda will make the future of work more flexible, more diverse, and more fair. Thank you.

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