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Advancing Women in Asia

Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of Women's World Banking, moderated the discussion.
by Stephanie Valera
5 March 2009

NEW YORK, March 5, 2009 - Even with the current economic climate,
promoting gender diversity in the workplace is still an important
business strategy, according to a panel of experts in business and
women's leadership issues in Asia.

Speaking at the Asia Society headquarters in New York, the panel, which featured Ted Childs, principal of Ted Childs LLC, Pierre-Louis Seguin, managing director at Accenture, Deborah Soon, VP of marketing and executive leadership initiatives at Catalyst, and moderator Mary Ellen Iskenderian, president and CEO of Women's World Banking, also discussed the challenges women still face in the corporate sector in Asia.

a corporate social responsibility point of view, gender diversity is
the right thing to do," said Soon. "But from a business perspective,
it's also the smart thing to do."

According to
Soon, research conducted by Catalyst showed that companies who have a
higher percentage of gender diversity in senior management and in the
board level have better financial performance. But even with such
quantitative proof, women still face challenges. "The biggest barrier
for women's advancement is still gender-based stereotyping, and it is
still prevalent," said Soon.

However, companies
that prioritize innovation, such as Accenture, have promoted programs
and initiatives to encourage gender diversity--to great success. "We
started the [gender diversity] programs to bring innovation into what
we do," said Seguin. "We wanted to shake the house."According to
Seguin, up to 60 percent of the Accenture workforce in the Asia-Pacific
region, specifically India and the Philippines, are women.

also cited Baxter International, which operates in China and the
Philippines, as another company that has successfully imposed a policy
that ensured 50 percent of its workforce are women, especially in
criticial positions like sales and management.

presented a different approach to stressing the need for gender
diversity in the workplace. "Debating over it's the right thing to do,
and it's the smart thing to do ... does not work," said Childs. "It's a
survival strategy." He continued, "There are countries that are running
out of business strategies because they ar not [employing] women
appropriately. If you want to survive as a business, you have to pick
up on this one."