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China leads the way for women in management roles

Updated: 14 Apr 2016

The number of women in management positions in China is greater than the average found across Asia, according to a survey of employers conducted by recruiting experts Hays in China. But the recruiter warns that employers may need to act to retain skilled female workers following changes to China’s one child policy.


The survey of 2,600 employers, conducted as part of the 2014 Hays Salary Guide and released to coincide with International Women’s Day, found that 36 per cent of management roles are held by women in China. This number compares favourably with the Asian average of 28 per cent.


According to Hays, the results suggest that China has made progress in developing and promoting its female workforce into management positions.


China was followed by Hong Kong (33 per cent), Malaysia (29 per cent) and Singapore (27 per cent). Japan is falling behind in the diversity stakes, with women in Japan filling just 15 per cent of management positions. This is happening despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s commitment to tap into Japan’s “most underutilised resource: Japanese women.”


These findings are supported by a report released by Grant Thornton in March 2013[1] which said that mainland Chinese women topped the world in terms of holding senior business management roles, beating Hong Kong and other advanced economies such as the United States and the UK.


A separate survey by MasterCard[2], also released in March last year, further supported the finding that mainland women were well represented in business, with 40.9 female business owners to every 100 male ones, higher than in Hong Kong (24.9 female to every 100 male).


“Diversity is increasingly on CEOs agendas as it is seen as a way of improving attraction and retention of staff, better reflecting a company’s customer base and boosting productivity, innovation and financial results,” said Simon Lance, Regional Director of Hays in China.


“But despite the compelling business case for diversity in the workforce the number of women participating in management is still not equal to men. 


“We will continue to monitor this trend in future years and it will be interesting to watch how quickly organisations come around to developing female talent to expand their talent pool.”


These findings have been released to coincide with International Women's Day, celebrated each year on 8 March. The theme for 2014 calls for challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.


Changes to China’s one child policy

Nine provinces and municipalities in China have completed work on an amended one-child policy that will allow more couples to have a second child.


This raises the question of how Chinese employers will retain skilled female workers who have a second baby. After maternity leave these women will face the choice of whether they should return to work or not.


Below is Hays’ advice to employers who want to retain women’s skills and keep up China’s gender diversity progress.


  • Consider introducing flexible working options such as:
    • Working from home or flex-place options (working from another site)
    • Telecommuting
    • Part-time working
    • Flexible hours and flexible leave
    • Job sharing
    • Career breaks 
    • Phased retirement  


  • Enable both women and men to balance their work and home lives by embracing flexible working at all levels and train managers to manage based on results, not hours at a desk.


  • Encourage an attitudinal change towards working flexibly, remotely or part-time: these different ways of working do not indicate a lack of commitment.


  • Create supportive networks and encourage mentoring opportunities for female managers.


  • Prepare future female leaders by providing management training and qualifications early in their careers.


  • Act on the evidence to ensure that women throughout your organisation are given the same opportunities as men to progress.


Get your copy of the 2014 Hays Salary Guide by visiting, contacting your local Hays office or downloading The Hays Salary Guide 2014 iPhone app from iTunes.


Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.


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About Hays

Hays is the leading global specialist recruiting group. It is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide.


Hays Specialist Recruitment  (Shanghai) Co., Limited ("Hays China") operates across the public and private sector, dealing in permanent positions. Hays China’s eighteen specialisms span Accountancy & Finance, Banking, Architecture, Construction, Education, Engineering, Executive, Finance Technology, Human Resources, Hays Resource Management, Information Technology, Insurance, Life Sciences, Manufacturing & Operations, Oil & Gas, Property and Sales & Marketing.


Hays China operates four local offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Guangzhou. It is the local representative office for Hays plc, which is a global company with more than 7,900 staff operating from 240 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms.


Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA.