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Meet Fern Ngai, CEO of Community Business

Posted on 28/09/2016 by Marie Swarbreck

Panelist #14

Fern Ngai, Chief Executive Officer of Community Business 

Question 1 - How does gender equity fit with the purpose of Community Business?

  • Community Business is a not-for-profit organisation which works with companies to promote responsible and inclusive business practices. Our mission is to lead, inspire and support businesses to have a positive impact on people and communities.
  • Our work in Diversity & Inclusion covers various facets and the discussion is nuanced and varies across the region but gender tends to be the top priority for companies and governments across Asia.
  • The topic of gender is covered within 2 of our mission led themes:
    • Tackling inequality in the workplace – we work to remove systemic barriers, change mindsets and behaviours, influence culture
    • Ensuring happy, healthy, and engaged employees – looking at work-life balance and how it impacts on employees (regardless of gender)


Question 2: What is unique about CB related to others in this space within HK?

  • We work with companies and partner organisations across the region, mainly through our Diversity & Inclusion in Asia Network (DIAN) which comprises 50 MNC’s, all committed to D&I as a core business strategy.
    • Established in 2008, the network has grown steadily from a handful of pioneering companies to now 50 spanning different industries.
    • Members meet regularly to develop, share and drive the adoption of best practice in the region, learn from experts and practitioners, and help collate and create knowledge and tools to advance D&I in the region.
  • Backed by over a decade of Asia-focused research, we also provide practical resources benchmarking tools, such as our LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index, and also provide consulting and training.
  • In addition to gender, we cover a broad range of diversity strands including culture, Asian talent, disability, age, multigenerational workplaces, and sexual orientation and gender identity.  
  • We always look at the business imperative, because it’s important that a company is able to understand and justify the business case for a subject like gender equity, otherwise it won’t be able to gain buy-in from its stakeholders and be effective at addressing it.
  • Being a responsible, diverse and inclusive business:
    • Allows companies to position themselves as employers of choice
    • Enables them to attract and retain the best talent – leading to diversity of perspectives and a real competitive advantage as a result of higher creativity, innovation, new products and services, access to new markets, etc.


Question 3 - What kind of work does Community Business do in the gender equity space?

  • Asia-based research, such as:  
    • Women on Boards – annual research on the representation of women on boards of Hong Kong's leading companies on the Hang Seng Index since 2009. A credible and authoritative resource to report on the gender diversity of Hong Kong's boardrooms, and also to identify trends and track performance over time.
    • Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia - Conducted every 2 years and ran the 3rd iteration in 2014. Provides essential benchmarking data (showing the representation of women at different levels in multinational companies across 6 markets in Asia: China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore) and an overview of the enabling environment - policies and programmes that companies have in place to support the advancement of women.
  • We look at D&I as a whole and the intersectionality of issues. E.g. women and:
    • Local Talent
    • Generations
    • Caregiving responsibilities
    • LGBT
    • Work-Life Balance
    • Unconscious Bias
    • Ensuring a healthy pipeline – Attracting and retaining talent
    • Culture – the expectations of women as mothers, wives, caregivers in Asia
  • These are issues that should matter to the business – They are not “women’s issues” …


Question 4 - In your experience working with companies across Asia, what are the key initiatives in this area, both Asia wide and specifically for Hong Kong?

  • Women’s networks, and getting men involved in the network so that they can better understand women’s issues - Barclays Singapore WIN for Men launched in April 2016 and has been ground– breaking (men driving gender diversity at employee level on a voluntary basis)
  • Mentoring circles, eg Cisco
    • Cross-company mentoring programme
    • Addresses challenge of building a pipeline of women in technology sector
    • Provides a dynamic, engaging and supportive environment for groups of 8-10 women from different companies
    • Clear rules of engagement to address concerns about competition and solicitation of employees
    • Participants are able to view issues and challenges from different perspectives
    • Multi-level networking – maximising opportunities for professional growth and learning
  • Increased leave benefits for working parents – partially aimed at preventing leaking pipeline
    • Hong Kong 
      • HSBC – increased paid maternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks – also extended to primary caregivers of adopted children;  flexible return policy allowing new parents to return to work on a reduced-hour basis
      • CLP – also increased paid maternity leave to 14 weeks
    • Regional - NAB – parental leave being rolled out across Asia
  • India – increase in maternity leave is being introduced to factor in 2 months of exclusive breastfeeding required for a child’s physical well-being – eg. Intuit (technology company) increased maternity leave to 26 weeks, paternity leave from 5 to 15 days, and adoption leave of 26 weeks for the primary caregiver
  • China which is facing a shrinking labour force and aging population -  Changing regulations this year as a result of the Amendment of the PRC Population and Family Planning Law and new “Two-child policy” implemented in January 2016. Provinces and cities are revising their family planning regulations covering marriage leave, maternity leave, and paternity leave.  For example, these are the locations with the most generous policies:
    • Shanxi: 30 days marriage leave
    • Fujian:  180 days maternity leave
    • Guangxi and Ningxia:  25 days paternity leave
  • Singapore – paternity leave extended to 2 weeks starting January 2017, working fathers may share up to 4 weeks of partner’s maternity leave from July 2107
  • Maternity/paternity coaching – eg. Uniliver has an online resource that helps managers and employees who are parents-to-be, new parents, and working parents
  • Return to work programmes (best practice guide by TWF)
    • Growing interest in Asia as a way to address the leaking pipeline at senior levels. 
    • Recognition that many women struggle to return to work after a career break. 
    • Being led by financial services industry in HK:  BAML, Bloomberg, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JPM, Morgan Stanley
  • Other initiatives: eg. ICICI Bank in India – enabling employees to work from home for up to a year; also to support women managers who travel on business, by covering the travel and stay of young children and their caregivers


Question 5 - How can organisations and individuals leverage what you offer and/or get involved in the above (with the opportunity to promote those things that are in key focus in Q4)

  • CB Conference on 15-16 November in HK
  • DIAN Membership
  • RBN Membership
  • Volunteering – ENGAGE – annual 6 month mentoring programme which works with students from disadvantaged backrounds in which we aim to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty
  • Refer to our website communitybusiness.org and sign up for our regular newsletter and event updates, follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter