Wednesday, March 7, 2012

scmp: HK women yet to have their day

HK women yet to have their day

Today is International Women's Day. What sets it apart from Mother's Day - apart from the fact that it has not been commercialised - is that it does not just honour women's traditional family role, and it is not just for one day a year. Rather, it seeks to advance women's equality and empowerment the year round. You could be forgiven for being unaware of that in this city. According to one online search for events marking International Women's Day, just four have been identified in Hong Kong, an insignificant number on a per-capita basis compared with more than 400 in Britain, nearly 250 in the US and more than 130 in Australia. And the four include Hong Kong participation in a bike ride in Cambodia against sexual slavery.

These local events do not entirely do justice to women's achievements in a man's world. The city has a reputation for having the most female senior officials in government, following in the footsteps of former Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang. Nonetheless, women remain under-represented in boardrooms and executive leadership positions in business. That is Hong Kong's loss. The city not only has more females than males, but greater earning power has led to their increasing independence and mobility.

Better educational opportunities for women have not translated into economic outcomes. As a writer observes on the opposite page, society is not doing enough to raise girls to be leaders, or to teach boys to perceive women as equals. Until it does, it may be some time before we can expect a woman to be elected Hong Kong's chief executive.

Meanwhile, it is ironic that on this International Women's Day, the more widely read content in this newspaper will not be the two articles about women's progress on the opposite page, but a news item about chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen's wife standing by her man in the best tradition of family values. That, however, will soon be yesterday's news. Women's equality and empowerment will remain a live story.

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