At Rotary, we are committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect, allowing everyone’s voice to be heard, and providing equitable opportunities for fellowship, service and leadership.

In the next few months, we would like to share with you different topics relating to that challenges we face daily, whether at work, in our personal lives, or in Rotary. The United Nations designates specific days, weeks, years, and decades as occasions to mark particular events or topics in order to promote, through awareness and action, the objectives of the Organization. Through some of the named international days and weeks, we will discuss different DEI topics. This month will be focused on gender and maternity protections.


World Breastfeeding Week [(1-7 Aug (WHO)]
(International Week currently observed by the United Nations)

World Breastfeeding Week is a global campaign held annually in the first week of August. Coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, it aims to inform, anchor, engage and galvanise action on breastfeeding and related issues. This event is supported by WHO, UNICEF, governments and civil societies worldwide. Since 2016, WBW have aligned their campaign with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. For WBW 2023, the theme is “Enabling breastfeeding: making a difference for working parents.”

In light of this campaign, we decided to examine how the socioeconomic and legal environment in Hong Kong affect breastfeeding and related issues for parents, especially working women.

Gender Equality

Hong Kong’s population consist of more women than men, yet only half (52.4%) participate in the labour force, behind mainland China, Japan, Singapore & Australia. Persistent gender biases and stereotypes, familial and societal pressure towards women as primary caregivers, and deeper financial vulnerability are only some of the reasons women stay out of the workforce. Despite HK’s reputation as a cosmopolitan city, women continue to receive lower wages, fewer employment opportunities, especially for managerial roles, and suffer pervasive gender-related harassment. Over 20% of women exit the labour force after marriage, 33% citing family caregiving duties. Even though there are currently slightly more female (53%) university graduates, their upward mobility is stagnated, receiving only 29% of management roles, figures behind Australia, Malaysia, mainland China and Singapore.

Employers and Maternity Protections

Despite legislation prohibiting family status and gender discrimination, the ‘motherhood penalty’ & ‘fatherhood premium’, where parents of young children show low-participation in job market while fathers of young children have high participation of high-income is alive and well in Hong Kong. Over half of the city’s employers say they prefer not to hire women with children. Only 17% employers reported having implemented family-friendly measures in the workplace such as flexible working hours, nursing breaks, child care or nursing facilities.

Working Women & Motherhood

Pregnant women currently get only 14 weeks of maternity leave at 80% pay, although the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommends 18 weeks at 100% pay. Not everyone will benefit, however, as this only applies to full-time employees under continuous employment for at least 40 weeks. By contrast, neighbouring mainland China, Singapore and Australia are much more generous, such as shared parental leave of up to 12 months. ILO also entitles lactating moms to 1 or 2 paid breastfeeding breaks per working day but Hong Kong has no legal provisions for breastfeeding mothers unlike South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

Future Outlook

We have seen some moderate gains in the effort for our city to move forward with the times. After hovering around 11% since 2013, an uptick in the number of female directors on Hang Seng Index-listed companies rose to 18.9% this year. This was a direct result of HKEX’s diversity initiative to eliminate single-gender boards. While Hong Kong still lags behind many international financial centres (UK 40.5%, US 32.6%, Australia 38.1%, Malaysia 29.7%, Singapore 21.5%), it is a step in the right direction.

In line with our core values and our commitment to honouring diversity, equity, and inclusion, Rotarians must take action to advocate for gender equitable policies that grant each person the necessary access to resources, opportunities and networks to succeed. As community leaders, Rotarians must consider the benefit of gender parity to the whole community as demonstrated in better results for our children, families, careers, businesses and even our countries.

Sources: Census and Statistic Department; Labour Department; Equal Opportunities Commission; Women’s Commission; International Labour Organization; Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative HK Association; HKEX; Forbes; Journal of Youth & Adolescence; Science News; McKinsey Global Institute.

Appointment of Club DEI Director/Committee Chair