The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS) has published a review report (Review) entitled, ‘Missing Opportunities – a Review of Gender Diversity on Hong Kong Boards’ supported by the contributors and organisations indicated below.

The Review calls for the imposition of a 30 per cent target for women on boards (WOBs) over a six-year period.

Ms Gillian Meller, President of HKICS said in relation to gender diversity that: “This matters. It matters because gender board diversity is well recognised as contributing to more effective boards and better corporate performance.

“It matters because the under-representation of women on our boards fails to meet the standards of an international financial centre. It matters as an issue of fairness and equality.

“It matters because Hong Kong companies are missing the opportunity to make full use of the talent available to serve on their boards and Hong Kong women are missing the opportunity to develop their careers and serve the Hong Kong corporate community.

“And it matters to our Institute as a promoter of excellence in governance and as a diverse organisation ourselves – two-thirds of our members are women,” she said.

The Institute therefore proposes that the Hong Kong Corporate Governance Code is amended to include a target of a minimum 30 per cent female representation on boards.

To give shareholders and boards time to adjust to this target, a six-year transition period would be set. The target would be voluntary, but only in the sense that it will be subject to a ‘comply or explain’ regime.

Both during and after the transition period, companies who do not comply will be required to disclose the specific reasons for this, the particular steps they intend to take to achieve compliance and the timeframe.