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Although a majority of investment professionals in Hong Kong agreed that gender diversity teams lead to better performance, almost half of them think gender inequality is still a taboo topic in the workplace, according to CFA Institute's latest survey. 

Additionally, 70% of respondents of both genders believe women still face pressure to “dress and look the part” in the industry.

Surveying 3005 investment professionals in Asia Pacific, the research revealed that 48% of Hong Kong respondents have an optimistic outlook towards gender equality over the next decade, third-lowest among APAC countries. Overall, more than half of survey respondents in APAC (51%) said they are optimistic that gender equality can be achieved in the next 10 years. Of those, investment professionals in India (72%) and mainland China (60%) are the most optimistic.

The study also found that 74% of its APAC respondents believe workplace diversity improves collaboration to deliver better business outcomes. In addition, 74% of respondents said gender-balance in the workplace not only improves team performance, but sends a strong message to employees, customers, investors, and the public. 

Despite positive trends in the industry, the survey also discovered gender discrimination and workplace inequality can still be found in Asia’s investment industry. Some 66% of female respondents noted they still feel uncomfortable to speak up about gender discrimination in their own workplace. Two-thirds of respondents in South Korea (66%) were the most reluctant to discuss gender inequality, followed by Hong Kong (44%), Singapore (43%) and mainland China (41%).

Asked why fewer women hold leadership positions, 27% of respondents in Hong Kong said women often sacrifice careers due to social pressure to take the lead in managing family life. Some 22% believe the longer hours and higher stress of senior roles interferes with family duties, while 15% said women are less assertive and have a lower ability to manage both genders.

While 83% Hong Kong respondents advocate for gender parity, most of the respondents (44%) in Hong Kong think professional accreditation or certification is the best way to help reduce bias against women in finance.

Less than 40% respondents agree that corporate-level strategies such as develop and support initiatives that promote equal pay for equivalent positions (37%), leadership should lead by example (36%), provide a safe environment for employees to report on discriminatory behaviour (36%), hire a diverse mix of people to the company (35%), reeducate all employees on the topic (34%) can help restore gender balance in the investment industry.

Only 26% agree that increasing the female representation on companies' boards of directors is useful. 

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