“Hong Kong Lagging Behind on Gender Diversity? Think Again”

In Australia, Telstra Business Women’s Awards are the longest-running and most esteemed women’s awards program that champion women from diverse industries, and ensure their achievements are given the recognition they deserve. For the first time this year, the Award has been launched across Asia as Telstra is growing its presence in the region. Kimberley Cole, Head of Sales Specialists & Business Development, Financial & Risk, Asia, at Thomson Reuters, and the founder of the Risky Women Trust Forum Asia, is among the finalists of the inaugural Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award. Prior to the award recipient’s announcement later this month, Kimberley presents her story, shares her leading views on the status of gender diversity and gives advice to other female business leaders in this city.

As one of the seven finalists of Telstra Business Women’s first Asia award, can you give us some examples of your work on driving gender diversity?
I love a good challenge, am results focus mixed with entrepreneurial spirit and love problem solving!  Networks are crucial when you moved as I have. I have built many networks and several also spotlight my other passion around gender equality. In 2009, I co-founded Women in Finance Asia in Hong Kong, connecting womens networks across financial institutions.  This highly credible volunteer organisation continues to thrive almost one decade later with 1500+ members. I remain involved as Chair Emeritus and an enthusiastic attendees. My latest network is the global Risky Women Network. A business generation and engagement network for women across risk, regulation and compliance- operating in seven cities and rapidly expanding. The value is in accelerating both the pace of change and also showcasing the many talented women we have in this region to drive aspiration and paint possibilities.

What does it mean to you to be shortlisted for this Award?
Becoming part of an amazing alumni who are all inspiring and have fascinating stories and histories that I can’t wait to learn more about when I get to Melbourne.  Clearly, Telstra also does a brilliant job at raising the profile of all the finalists, which is great for us in a business context and for the other passions and pursuits from gender balance to stopping slavery that I am involved in! 

How do these female business awards contribute to gender diversity in the workplace?
I am a firm believer that you can’t be what you can’t see!  I hope that seeing amazing and inspiring and diverse women who have taken many paths show that anyone can achieve what they set their sights on. 

You are the founder of Women in Finance Asia, and you have experience working in three continents.
How do you see the gender diversity in Hong Kong, comparing with other markets in Asia? What are the major challenges we still need to overcome?
The main issues from my vantage, which is not necessary one that everyone has, is a problem at the middle management level.  Some policies and guidelines which are well established and accepted in other countries like flexible working are not understood or managers are not trained to support, in Hong Kong.  There often remains a desire to be able to "see" workers and not manage on outputs and deliverable which also leads to a tighter less flexible regime. There are many differences with the accessibility of childcare and home support in Hong Kong which provide wonderful opportunities for families to allow both parents to work.  However, I think we need to tackle more of the family challenges and improve parental leave and encourage or "allow" men to play the role they want in their children's lives. Increasingly they want more but flexibility for them is also seen as a step off the career ladder.  There remain stereotypes everywhere that are difficult for both men and women in the workplace to do things differently. 

What advice would you give to female business leaders in Hong Kong?
Do what you can to help other women on their career journey. 

Any suggestions to companies that wish to attract and retain senior female talents in the city/across
There are some great initiatives now in place and many best practice ideas they could look at.  The Australian Male Champions of change program with the "all roles flex" and panel pledge are 2 great ideas.  Think about the culture and ensure you measure and track what is going on at all levels of the organisation so you can take action.  Thomson Reuters has recently released a great D&I Index which ranks the top 100 publicly traded companies globally with the most diverse and inclusive workplaces, as measured by 24 metrics across four key categories: Diversity, Inclusion, People Development and News Controversies. The Index is then calculated by weighing each metric based on importance in the market and how each company compares with its peers. We see this as addressing an area of increased focused by companies who are looking beyond financial data to sustainability and to make "better" and socially responsible investment decisions.  So for me you need to look at the metrics and maybe you need to set yourself targets if not quotas!