Why are women still facing barriers in leadership?

Underrepresentation is harming organisational success – how can HR help?

Why are women still facing barriers in leadership?

Women are not only underrepresented in leadership roles in the Asia-Pacific (APAC), but they also aren't being promoted internally compared to their male counterparts, a new report has revealed.

The World Economic Forum's 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, which cited LinkedIn data, revealed that India has the lowest representation of women in leadership, where it is only at 18%. Australia (32%), New Zealand (33%), Singapore, and the Philippines (41%) also had less than 50% of female representation in leadership, according to the data presented.

The report said that this situation could likely be attributed to women not being promoted internally as much as their male counterparts do. In India and Singapore, men are 42% more likely to be promoted internally into leadership positions. This is followed by the Philippines (26%), New Zealand (20%), and Australia (18%).

Feon Ang, LinkedIn APAC's managing director, said that their findings show that barriers remain for women in the workplace.

"Our data is telling us a very clear story: Women face more barriers in the workplace when compared to their male counterparts – they are currently underrepresented in leadership and are not being promoted into leadership roles at the same rate as men," Ang said.

"We must take urgent steps to make workplaces work for women."

Silver lining

Despite these findings, hope may not be lost as data revealed that more women are being hired into leadership roles, with the largest increase reported in the Philippines, from 34% in 2015 to 43% in 2022.

Australia and New Zealand are also seeing this increase, from 34% in 2015 to 40% in 2022. In India, the increase was from 18% in 2015 to 24% in 2022. In Singapore, a smaller increase was reported from 32% in 2015 to 37% in 2022.

In addition to more hiring, there are also more women pursuing entrepreneurship from 2016 to 2021, according to the report, with the growth rate even surpassing the figures for men.

The report noted, however, that this growth was likely because of the lack of opportunities in the workplace for women. In fact, Australia and India, which have the lowest representation of women in leadership in APAC, had the highest increase in female entrepreneurship, especially amid the pandemic.

Ang said this is "not surprising" to see more women create opportunities for themselves through entrepreneurship, given that they face barriers in the workplace.

"While it's great to see more women rise up as entrepreneurs, we must recognise that many of them stepped out on their own because of inequitable working environments," said Ang.

"Aside from supporting female entrepreneurs, we need to ensure that women in the workforce have equal access to opportunities. Organisations and business leaders should look at solutions like internal mobility, fair hiring practices with a focus on skills, and flexibility. This will ensure that women are equal contributors at all levels in an organisation."

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