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LCQ5: Study on women's status by Women's Commission

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau Wai-hing and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):


     The Women's Commission (WoC) commissioned a consultant to conduct a questionnaire survey between February and May 2010 among 3 002 members of the public selected by random sampling, in which issues of women's status, role, division of work and development opportunity in the contexts of family, economic and social environments were covered. The survey findings showed that 33.4% of the respondents considered that staff members generally preferred not to be supervised by female managers or supervisors; more than 70% of the respondents considered that there were still occasions where men stood a better chance of promotion than women of similar age or with similar abilities; and 38.7% of the respondents agreed that male performed better in political leadership than female. In this connection, will the executive authorities inform this Council:

(a) what follow-up actions WoC has undertaken in respect of the survey findings;

(b) whether the authorities have assessed if the policy on elimination of the mindset of gender stereotyping is effective; if it is effective, why the aforesaid survey findings emerged; if it is not effective, how the authorities will adjust the policy direction and formulate corresponding and specific measures (including whether they will conduct surveys on a regular basis and enhance civic education); and

(c) whether it will appoint more women to advisory and statutory bodies (ASBs); of the current number of such ASBs in which the percentage of the number of female non-official members in the total number of such members is below 30% (list in table form the respective numbers and percentages of female non-official members in various ASBs); whether it has assessed if women's participation rates not being able to reach 30% in these ASBs is related to the mindset of gender stereotyping?


Acting President,

     Our reply to Hon Emily Lau's question is as follows:

(a) To study the public's perception of women's status at home, in the workplace and in social environments in Hong Kong, and to understand the factors affecting the full development and advancement of women in Hong Kong, the Women's Commission (WoC) commissioned a consultant to conduct a questionnaire survey entitled "What do Women and Men in Hong Kong Think about the Status of Women at Home, Work and in Social Environments?". Altogether 3 002 persons aged 18 or above selected by random sampling between February and May 2010 were interviewed.

     WoC organised press conferences to release the survey findings regarding the status of women at home, in social environments and in the workplace in November 2010, January 2011 and February 2011 respectively. In addition, in order to publicise the survey findings through a multi-pronged strategy, WoC invited various parties, including the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), women's groups, and members from the education and economic sectors, to participate in the radio interview entitled "What do you think about the status of women?" in February 2011. The recordings of the radio interview have been uploaded onto the WoC webpage for public access. The survey findings have been shared with relevant bureaux and departments (B/Ds) as future reference for their related work.

     In September 2011, WoC organised an exchange session on gender statistics. The exchange session was joined by representatives from the Census and Statistics Department, academia related to gender issues, women's groups, educational institutions and individuals interested in women's affairs. At the exchange session, WoC shared the survey findings with the participants, and exchanged views with them on the compilation and dissemination of gender statistics, with a view to enhancing public awareness and furthering discussion of gender issues.

     Moreover, the "Highlights of Survey Findings" has been distributed to women's groups and uploaded onto the WoC webpage for reading by the public.

(b) The Administration has been working closely with WoC to eliminate gender stereotyping and promote the well-being and status of women in Hong Kong. It strives to raise public awareness on gender issues and eliminate gender stereotyping through its support to WoC's work in relevant researches and surveys, public education and publicity activities, etc.

     Over the years, WoC has conducted a number of researches and surveys on gender issues aimed at examining the situation of Hong Kong women in various aspects, understanding society's views on different gender issues, and enhancing public awareness of and simulating discussion on these issues, with a view to eliminating gender stereotyping gradually. Apart from the survey mentioned above, WoC has also conducted researches and surveys on the use of time, women's participation in social affairs, family-friendly employment policies and practices, development of women in Hong Kong, and public perception of gender issues, etc. The findings of these researches and surveys have been released to the public for information.

     WoC is committed to enhancing gender awareness in the community through public education and publicity activities. In addition to organising large-scale conferences for the community to review the development of women and gender stereotyping in Hong Kong, WoC also strives to promote public understanding of gender-related issues and discussion on gender stereotyping through different media such as television, radio, bus advertising and the press. In early 2011, we assisted WoC in producing a 10-episode five-minute television series on gender issues.  Starting from October 2011, we assisted WoC in rolling out another series of 10-episode half-hour television drama portraying some common experiences of Hong Kong women in the 21st century, including issues related to gender stereotyping, to enhance public interest in gender issues.

     Besides, EOC has been committed to promoting gender equality and eliminating gender stereotyping through various public education programmes and efforts. These include promotion of the message of gender equality through various channels, such as publication of guidelines and references and organising seminars, talks and exhibitions, supporting and encouraging community organisations to develop projects promoting equal opportunities through organising the Community Participation Funding Scheme, launching advertising campaigns and television and radio programmes which include the messages of elimination of sex discrimination and gender stereotyping, and conducting public education programmes targeting the youth, including funding school performances and organising the youth mentorship programme, etc.

     Elimination of gender stereotyping is an on-going task. The WoC survey shows that while more could be done, some established gender stereotypes are gradually changing. For example, the shift in women's economic role is generally accepted in our society, and the traditional concept of men as the sole breadwinners of families has changed; more than half in the community consider that male supremacy no longer exists; and over 80% of the people agree that women nowadays are independent and autonomous.  The Administration will continue to work closely with WoC and EOC towards the goal of eliminating gender stereotyping.

(c) According to the information collected by the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) from B/Ds, as at October 2011, 398 advisory and statutory bodies (ASBs) had Government appointed non-official members while 149 of them had not yet achieved the 30% gender benchmark.  Please refer to Annex for the relevant statistics in respect of these 149 ASBs.

     The setting of the 30% gender benchmark by the Government aims at encouraging B/Ds to increase the overall women's participation rate in ASBs to 30%. As at October 2011, the overall women's participation rate in all ASBs with Government appointed non-official members has already reached 31.01%.

     In making appointments to ASBs, the Government aims to secure the services of the most suitable persons to meet the requirements of the board or committee concerned. In making appointments, the Government will consider a host of factors including a candidate's ability, expertise, experience, integrity and commitment to public service; the functions and nature of the board or committee concerned, etc. For statutory bodies, the appointing authorities will also consider the relevant statutory requirements. In considering the above factors, the appointing authorities aim to achieve the objective that the composition of ASBs broadly reflects the interests and views of the community, and the principle of appointment by merit.

     While there may be different reasons for ASBs failing to achieve the benchmark, they may be categorised in general as follows -

(a) the majority of practitioners in the respective sectors or professions are male;

(b) the candidates are mainly nominated or recommended by the relevant professional bodies or institutions: while these bodies and institutions have taken note of our 30% gender benchmark target, they have difficulties in identifying sufficient number of suitable female candidates largely owing to the small number of female members in the respective trade; and

(c) the scope for increasing the female ratio is constrained by the small number of Government appointed non-official members sitting on the ASBs.

     While upholding the principle of appointment by merit, HAB will continue to appeal to appointing authorities for their continued efforts in enhancing women's participation in ASBs where practicable.  HAB will encourage appointing authorities to continue taking proactive measures to identify, reach out and cultivate women who are willing and able to contribute to the work of ASBs.  HAB will also continue to remind appointing authorities of the importance of further enhancing women's participation in ASBs.

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Issued at HKT 18:15


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