Wavestone finds women in start-up sector in Hong Kong drawn by culture

12 July 2018 Authored by Consultancy.asia

With women now playing a prominent role in Hong Kong’s flourishing start-up sector, the digitally-minded management firm Wavestone has looked into what insights can be drawn for the corporate world in its effort to attract and retain female talent.

Hong Kong has in recent times established itself as a global centre for innovation, supported by local regulators and attracting the big players of the digital sphere. Earlier this month, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority signed a strategic agreement with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Abu Dhabi to promote fintech innovation across jurisdictions, while market-shapers such as PwC have been investing in local emerging technologies.

Such a landscape has seen the Hong Kong start-up sector flourish, with the island rapidly welcoming new additions to its more than 2,000 currently active start-up enterprises – as well as, in just 2017 alone, some $1 billion in venture capital investment at an average value of $42 million. A huge factor in Hong Kong’s establishment as a thriving innovation hub has been the participation of women, making up 45% of the local number of entrepreneurs.

In a recent survey report on the role of women in innovation in Hong Kong, and what corporates can learn from start-ups, the global management and digital innovation consultancy Wavestone – which has a primary office in Hong Kong and a partnership presence in Singapore among its 16 locations worldwide – has concluded that the attraction for women to the start-up realm centres on three key motivating factors; culture, flexibility, and career progression.Key drivers for female entrepreneurship in Hong KongWith respect to developing a participative leadership style and culture, the Wavestone report notes five specific points for corporates looking to emulate the success of start-ups in attracting and retaining talent; namely, the creation of a horizontal structure – with the leading reason for women joining start-ups being the active participation in a company’s vision and culture; creating a culture of continuous learning opportunities; giving space to create projects around new ideas; the encouragement of women to be more vocal, and; the demonstration of respect in communication.

In addition, flexible hours and a better work-life balance was cited by 23 percent of the participants in the report survey (which included extensive interviews with start-up founders and industry leaders) as the primary reason for job satisfaction in the start-up sector – with 78 percent in turn saying that their organisations allowed workplace flexibility, such as with flexible hours, remote working possibilities, and a more casual approach to business attire. Lastly, another 21 percent of women identified the simple recognition of their work as a number one factor for feeling more satisfied in the start-up environment.Top reasons for job satisfaction for females in Hong Kong start-upsAs for the founders of start-ups, the triggers cited for females starting their own businesses roughly correlated with the general workplace motivations, with 42 percent stating that they wanted to create a company with a strong vision and culture from scratch, 30 percent saying they desired a more direct impact than possible with a corporate job, and a further 28 percent noting the persistent glass ceiling in inhibiting career progression for ambitious women. As the report adds, only 29% of management positions as of 2016 in Hong Kong were held by women.

These motivations for greater participation by women in leadership in the business environment align with numerous reports in recent times, (along with the constant recent stream of analysis which now clearly demonstrates that leadership diversity drives innovation and profitability), including a BCG report conducted in Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia which identified work flexibility and an inclusive environment as key areas for promoting female leadership. And it’s no small matter for corporates; another recent report from McKinsey calculated that enhanced gender equality in the workplace holds a $4.5 trillion potential in collective GDP for the APAC region by 2025.

As the Wavestone report concludes, the analysis indicates that women are important drivers of economic development and innovation, and; “As such, it is worthwhile to explore the motivations of women within the start-up world, and use the outcome of this study to help corporates create and implement similar enablers. This should allow corporates to attract, retain and promote women, and to flourish in the same way as start-ups.” Wavestone, too, is leading from the front, with its US arm increasing its female employee ratio from 15 percent to 21 percent last year – with the keen intention to continue to keep up this trend.

As the Wavestone report concludes, the analysis indicates that women are important drivers of economic development and innovation, and; “As such, it is worthwhile to explore the motivations of women within the start-up world, and use the outcome of this study to help corporates create and implement similar enablers. This should allow corporates to attract, retain and promote women, and to flourish in the same way as start-ups.” Wavestone, too, is leading from the front, with its US arm increasing its female employee ratio from 15 percent to 21 percent last year – with the keen intention to continue to keep up this trend.

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