South Asia faces a wake up call as it trails in global gender equality

South Asia is on the brink of a wake-up call as it watches the world in its efforts to close the gender gap, an expert told CNBC.

The World Economic Forum predicts that it could now take 195 years to achieve gender equality in the region – 59 years more than the global average.

Corporations have a huge responsibility to fill that void, Sharmini Wainwright, senior managing director at Michael Page Australia recruiting agency, told CNBC.

“It may be a good time to wake up here,” said Wainwright on Thursday.

India in particular still has a long way to go in this regard. The pandemic and other cultural and demographic issues made it an “incredibly challenging year” for the country. Currently, only 13% of senior executives in India are women.

“There is still a long way to go,” said Wainwright. “Big Indian companies really need to push for change.”

The results come from a larger WEF study of the impact of the pandemic on the gender gap. It is now estimated that it will take 135.6 years to achieve gender equality – a generation longer than previously thought.

Western Europe has been a leader in gender equality. The gap is expected to close in 53 years, followed by North America (62 years) and Latin America and the Caribbean (69 years).

Thailand leads the Asia-Pacific region

However, other parts of the Asia-Pacific region showed signs of progress. In Thailand in particular, more than half (53%) of management positions were filled by women in 2020.

Those senior female executives This has usually been a combination of international and local talent, especially within multinational companies in manufacturing and in the supply chain.

“What you have is an economy and a market that is very fast moving and very aggressively pursuing talent,” said Wainwright.

She added that this was also the result of a concerted effort by certain industries such as manufacturing over the past few decades to attract and nurture a pipeline of female executives.

“Now, 20 years later, you have seen the benefits of people who have really taken the opportunity to enjoy exceptional careers in this sector and really advance to leadership positions within the sector,” she said.

More women needed in the top chair

Nevertheless, too few women today occupy the top management position, namely the role of CEO.

According to the report, the top three job titles for female executives were chief finance officer, marketing director and legal director.

Wainwright described this as the next “big breakthrough that has to take place” and urged men to be better allies.

“How do we manage to get that first place? It’s still to come,” she said.

“This conversation is about both men and women. They are usually the ones with the greatest influence in making a change and making a decision.”

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