Breaking gender biases and improving the lives of women and girls in Hong Kong…
As a fellow women-powered company, Sassy appreciates the work The Women’s Foundation does to improve the lives of women and girls in Hong Kong and we couldn’t think of a more perfect non-profit organisation to feature in this special International Women’s Day edition Sassy Supports. Ahead, The Women’s Foundation share the many issues females face, the problems that have exacerbated due to the pandemic, and the steps we can take to create a safer, more equal society for all. Plus, find out what the non-profit thinks about this year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme: #BreakTheBias.
Tell us about The Women’s Foundation. What is it you do?
We were founded 18 years ago by a group of individuals who are passionate about tackling the many challenges and inequalities that women and girls face across the city. The Women’s Foundation has since evolved into a leading voice NGO that holistically works towards gender equality for all. We aspire to conduct ground-breaking research and run impactful and innovative community programmes, and we engage in education and advocacy in the pursuit of three main goals: challenging gender stereotypes, empowering women in poverty, and advancing women leaders.
How has The Women’s Foundation been improving the lives of women and girls in Hong Kong?
The Women’s Foundation believes in addressing immediate challenges facing women and girls, as well as nurturing gender equal behaviours and mindsets for the long-term. We also know the problems facing women and girls are complex, and that we can’t achieve gender equality on our own. This is why The Women’s Foundation is grounded in community. We aim to bring all sectors together as a catalyst and enabler for change, to lead ground-breaking research and uncomfortable conversations to challenge gender biases, to run programmes that address the root cause of inequality and to advocate for policy changes that create a safer, more equal society for all.
What issues are important to The Women’s Foundation?
There are a host of issues that impact different aspects of a woman’s life – from education and career potential to expected social roles and physical safety. Here are a few that The Women’s Foundation seeks to address through our work:
- Persistent gender stereotypes: Gender stereotypes contribute to body image and self-esteem issues, violence against women and the ambition gender gap (boys are four times more likely to pursue an education and career in STEM subjects than girls).
- Pervasive sexual violence: 1 in 7 women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime but 90% do not report. Victims face a wide range of barriers in seeking support, from social stigma and lack of knowledge to fear of employer retribution.
- Women in poverty: 1 in 6 women in Hong Kong live below the poverty line, with numbers higher for certain populations like single mothers and ethnic minority women.
- Workplace barriers: A woman may face a gender pay gap which is currently 14% in Hong Kong. We are also aware of a motherhood penalty where more than 50% of Hong Kong employers said they wouldn’t hire women with children. Concerningly, 30% of Hong Kong working women drop out of the workforce due to caring responsibilities.
- Lack of women on boards: Women comprise only 14.3% of directors on Hang Seng Index company boards outpaced by other regional financial centres such as Australia (34.1%), Malaysia (25.8%) and Singapore (18%).
COVID-19 has exacerbated many of these issues for women and girls, particularly for more vulnerable populations. We each play a crucial role in closing the gender gap and it’s important for us to come together to advance gender equality for all.
How can we get involved?
There are so many ways to become a gender equality advocate in the community. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Learn about the issues impacting women and girls and raise awareness about them. Here is an overview of the challenges facing women and girls in Hong Kong, a humorous take on biases women face in the boardroom, and a sobering view of the complexity of issues sexual violence victims face (and ways to support them).
- Support vulnerable groups of women and girls by volunteering your time and skills, mobilising needed resources or supporting NGOs that work with these communities. Consider supporting The Women’s Foundation’s work with underprivileged women, girls and their families by fundraising, sponsorship or becoming a regular donor.
- Find out more about our Girls Go Tech Programme, Digital Literacy Programme, and #TEENForGood Initiative developed in response to COVID-19.
- Join The Women’s Foundation’s programmes. Women can apply to be a mentor or protégé through our Mentoring Programme for Women Leaders, cultivating your own leadership skills at work and in society, building a supportive community and paying it forward for others. For men, be a champion for gender equality at your organisation through our Male Allies Initiative.
- Stay in touch. Follow The Women’s Foundation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (watch out for our IWD campaign updates!). We often host free public events on gender-related issues so be sure to sign up to our newsletter to receive regular updates about our work and events.
What are your thoughts on this year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme: #BreakTheBias?
It’s such a timely theme. What underpins so many of the challenges facing women and girls are biases – along with the stereotypes and unequal power structures and dynamics that arise from these biases.
There are many ways you can #BreaktheBias – here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- At home, have conversations about who is taking up most of the household responsibilities. If there is an imbalance, mix it up and challenge gender stereotypes.
- At work, if you’re in a position to do so, hire diverse talent and support parents who wish to return to work. Sponsor or mentor a female colleague. Lead a gender diversity network. Encourage male colleagues to take up parental leave and flexible work arrangements.
- In public and online spaces, use your voice for good. Learn about the issues facing women and girls. Support vulnerable communities. Be an active bystander – stand up to harassment and discrimination.
No matter what action you commit to for International Women’s Day, remember that small steps taken individually and collectively can lead to tremendous shifts and will make a difference in advancing gender equality in Hong Kong and beyond.
Images courtesy of The Women’s Foundation.