With a local female labour participation rate at just 54.1%, which translates to about 700,000 women in the labour force, 45% of women in Malaysia feel that a glass ceiling still exists within their organisations.

While across Asia this perception was conveyed by 49%, it was the highest in Singapore, where 63% of respondents expressed concerns about attitudes to female leadership in their organisations.

Just over one-third (36%) of Hong Kong-based respondents believed in the existence of a glass ceiling, while the China-based affirmative response, at 46%, was roughly similar to that of Malaysia (45%).

The findings were reported in the ‘Women in Leadership in Asia Pacific’ report, developed by Willis Towers Watson, in partnership with The Economist Corporate Network.

The breakdown by gender was interesting: 36% of the men surveyed felt there was a glass ceiling in their organisation, while 51% of the women felt this was the case.

Through focus groups held in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, the researchers found such perceptions could be linked to damaging gender stereotypes that women still face.

For example, the majority of men who responded said they are the only breadwinner in the family (87%). On the contrary, 83% of women said that they are either the main breadwinner, or they share responsibilities equally with their spouse.



Apart from the perceptions, facts point to the a lack of employer- and state- provided facilities for the employee demographic plagued by the glass ceiling.

Almost six in 10 respondents (59%) say they do not have access to affordable daycare. Just 4% and 2% state they use daycare facilities provided by the government and employer respectively.



Among employers looking to address the gender diversity gap, the following proved to be the most successful campaigns:

  1. Gender diversity targets
  2. Flexible working options, including telecommuting
  3. Development of a pipeline of high-potential women
  4. Diversity training
  5. Professional coaching of high-potential women


 Infographics / Willis Towers Watson | Lead photo / 123RF