ASIAN NATIONS RANK LOW ON GENDER EQUALITY SURVEY
In October 2009, the World Economic Forum released its latest Global Gender Index, ranking 134 countries on gender equality. The ranking is based on salary comparisons, employment statistics, female participation in government and other related factors. Scandinavian countries scored the highest – with Iceland and Finland in the top two spots – while the United States ranked 31st. Most Asian countries, on the other hand, ranked relatively poorly.
South Korea ranked 115th on the list with India one place higher at 114th (this was a 16-spot decline for India since a similar 2006 survey). Japan saw vast improvements over 2006, moving from 100th place to 75th. China ranked in 61st place. By far the highest ranking Asian country in the survey was the Philippines, which holds the 9th spot.
Gender inequality in Asia has been a particularly difficult hurdle for foreign companies staffing their Asian offices. While many multinational companies have global diversity and gender equality initiatives, they sometimes face resistance from local male managers and executives when trying to bring talented women on board. This problem is particularly severe in Korea, where women were traditionally expected to leave the workforce permanently after getting married and having children.
Although attitudes towards women are changing in many Asian countries, employers are likely to see the residual affect of gender discrimination for many years to come. Some foreign employers in Asia have initiated local, culturally sensitive diversity training programs or hiring plans that specifically target talented women for leading roles in the organization.