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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Kao

Let's talk about gender inequality in the Hong Kong workplace.

By Jacqueline Kao

July 19, 2022

Gender inequality in the workplace indicates unequal treatment of employees due to gender-based discrimination; this includes a disparate distribution of opportunities, working conditions, pay, and such.

Discrimination against certain genders may result from stereotypical misperceptions ingrained in the past, where performance-related advantages of certain sex over the other have been evident and long prevalent in society. A classic example would be the male biological advantage over females in the field of manual labor and the opposite in the field of domestic labor.

However, I’d like to point out that the endeavor to treat men and women “equally” at work leads to a paradoxical difference in their being viewed and treated differently. The concept of gender equity serves as a more advanced and suitable substitute for gender equality. Gender equity frees genders from bias and favoritism in the workplace, providing the employees with what is necessary to diminish the disparity of equality at work.

Long-established gender stereotypes may stem from cultural traditions that demonstrate an imbalance between genders within households. Archetypal family hierarchy, prominent in the history of areas such as East Asia, undermines women’s rights to solidify male dominance and patriarchy in the household. Thus, this placement of women as subservient to men is reflected in their perceived potential to uphold responsibility and lead; despite the two genders entering the workforce in similar numbers after graduation, women hold a minimal 29% of management roles in Hong Kong, while men hold the remaining 71%. This clearly shows an entrenched societal preference for male leadership over female, though both genders have clearly demonstrated equal experience and skill for being effective leaders.

Similarly, societal and familial pressures force women to forfeit their efforts for motherly duties. This constraint is further exacerbated by the statutory leave policy implemented by the Hong Kong government, which only guarantees a 10-week long maternity leave. The insufficiency of such policies forces women to prioritize one or the other - work, or the health of them and their child, stripping them of their right to maintain a sufficient work-life balance.

Adverse effects on stamina and performance caused by carrying a child would be harmful to the efficiency of work. With such justification, more than half of the employers in Hong Kong have expressed negative opinions about hiring pregnant women while vindicating the notable disparity of 22% between male and female pay rates. This, and a crucial lack of accessible and affordable childcare facilities in Hong Kong constitutes a significant consequence for working mothers of a lower income. Employers overlook that pregnant employers may be in dire need of the monetary support that comes from their hard work. This is just one of many examples that show the necessity for gender equity.

To establish a gender-equal workplace, gender equality must first be inaugurated in society and households; then, we need predominantly equal opportunities, resources, and rewards without distinction between genders in the workplace. Findings show that gender diversity promotes enhanced productivity and economic growth, diverse organizational performance and reputation, and increases the interest of potential employees; an equal workplace would benefit not just women but our entire society.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jacqueline Kao, a rising tenth grader at the ISF Academy in Hong Kong. Though I have touched on the matter of inequality in the Hong Kong workspace before, admittedly, feminism and gender inequality is an unfamiliar topic to me. Regardless, I am delighted for this opportunity to explore this belief that has caused such an influential impact on modern societies, and this has been a great initiative for me to gain exposure to concepts of gender and equity in our society, invest myself towards learning more them, and to raise awareness of this topic to those around me. I look forward to gaining more insight on philosophical ideologies of contemporary moral issues that include feminism and gender equality over the summer, and I’m grateful that Hughlyn has presented such an amazing opportunity for me to approach feminism. I sincerely hope that more of the community will have a chance to learn about feminism as well.



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