Gender Equality in Asian Corporate Leadership Is an Achievable Reality

New research by INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute reveals emergent themes and major implications for gender parity in Asian corporate leadership

05 March 2018

INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute (EMI) and Deutsche Bank today announced the release of a study, Gender equality in Asian corporate leadership – distant dream or achievable ideal?, which examines what could contribute towards improving gender parity in the higher echelons of Asian management.

In-depth interviews with female and male leaders and mid-career women from financial services and information technology firms across Asia Pacific highlight that while the environment is positive for women in terms of awareness of disparity and willingness to take action, gender equality in corporate leadership is far from being achieved in the 21st century Asian workplace.

V. Paddy Padmanabhan, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD and Academic Director of INSEAD EMI, states that, “The gender gap is real – but what we also know is that the gender gap and wage inequality is not a constant and varies across industries and over time. The report shows that while there is no single-item solution to the problem, a combination of changes in attitudes and policies in the workplace along with the forces of economic and social change can play a significant role in alleviating these distortions.

Vinika Devasar Rao, Executive Director of INSEAD EMI, adds that, “Workplace gender parity becomes increasingly elusive with every step up the Asian corporate ladder. Radical change is imperative, both because equal opportunity across genders is morally appropriate and because the lack thereof depletes corporate and national resources. The current pace of change is undeniably inadequate. Analysis of the efforts expended so far and their lacklustre results is best done in consultation with the women and men at the centre of it all. They are best placed to define the next evolution of gender-related efforts for maximum impact.” 

Alexander Prout, Head of Deutsche Asset Management for Asia Pacific at Deutsche Bank, says that: “It is no secret that gender disparity continues to be an issue for the financial services sector and we feel that it is imperative to partner with organisations like INSEAD to actively develop how best we can address the matter both internally and with the wider industry. Deutsche Bank is committed to the development of female talent and proactively aims to increase further balance across the bank, with a particular focus placed on the senior corporate levels.”

The study outlines key findings for multinationals operating in Asia including:

  • Asia’s diversity merits customisation of gender-related policies
  • Gender discrimination in the Asian workplace is now mostly unconscious
  • Technology has had a positive impact through increased flexibility
  • Training & development needs a better assessment of women’s needs
  • Diversity networks and gender specific training help to counter old boys’ club mentality
  • Quotas are a ‘necessary evil’ but unsustainable in the long term
  • Male advocates are potential game changers

One emerging theme reflects the impact of generational change on gender dynamics, anticipating that future generations joining the workplace demonstrate relatively fewer biases based on gender. Although, they could be less tolerant to the continuing use of pro-women policies and initiatives, which could possibly result in hostility toward men given the increasing affirmative action in favour of women.

The diverse and multi-faceted Asian context requires sustained efforts that take into consideration societal and cultural factors. A deeper understanding of the specific needs and preferences of women at different stages of their personal and professional lives is critical. Individuals, organisations, governments and educational institutions like INSEAD all have a role to play – to optimise the opportunities at hand and to pave the way forward as active enablers for accelerating parity in Asian corporate leadership.

To download the full report, visit here.

About INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute
The INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute (EMI) is a leading think tank for the creation and dissemination of credible and timely information on issues related to business management, economic development and social progress in the emerging economies. This includes the development of cutting edge pedagogical material, research publications and data sets.
EMI creates knowledge through research and disseminates it for practical application by the individuals, organizations and governments who seek to leverage the opportunities offered by these dynamic economies. Based at the Asia campus in Singapore, and set up in partnership with the Economic Development Board of Singapore, the Emerging Markets Institute reflects the changing focus of global growth and emphasises INSEAD's commitment to the region. INSEAD’s three campuses in Fontainebleau, Singapore and Abu Dhabi provide the unique advantage of geographical proximity to emerging countries across the globe.
More information about INSEAD EMI can be found at 

About Deutsche Bank 
Deutsche Bank provides commercial and investment banking, retail banking, transaction banking and asset and wealth management products and services to corporations, governments, institutional investors, small and medium-sized businesses, and private individuals. Deutsche Bank is Germany’s leading bank, with a strong position in Europe and a significant presence in the Americas and Asia Pacific. Deutsche Bank is committed to an inclusive culture that respects, embraces, and leverages the diversity of our people, our clients, and our communities. The bank recognises the need to accelerate progress on diversity and inclusion and has subsequently developed a variety of programs, practices, and policies to achieve this. To read more about Deutsche Bank’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive organisation, please click here.


As one of the world's leading and largest graduate business schools, INSEAD offers participants a truly global educational experience. With campuses in Europe (France), Asia (Singapore) and Middle East (Abu Dhabi), INSEAD's business education and research spans three continents. Its 145 renowned faculty members from 40 countries inspire more than 1,400 students in its degree and PhD programmes. In addition, more than 10,000 executives participate in INSEAD's executive education programmes each year. 



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