Asia’s women crack glass ceiling, but fail to break through stereotype | Singapore Informer

ASIA’s women are taking one step forward, two steps back when it comes to gender equality.

Family structures and entrenched notions of what constitutes women’s work are holding back the region’s female population from scaling the corporate ladder, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The proportion of women graduates who studied construction, engineering and manufacturing has stagnated or even fallen in some countries — including Malaysia, Mongolia and Japan — according to data of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

There can be a negative feedback cycle when female graduates in these fields find it difficult to find employment or stay on the job due to gender bias in areas traditionally dominated by men, according to the ILO.

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And while women own and manage almost 30%of businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, female employers are mainly confined to micro and small enterprises.

The share of women bosses increased in countries like Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines from 2008 to 2013, despite many major companies still lacking female voices on their boards.

“The major obstacle we still find is that gender stereotyping is still there, perhaps linked to the fact that family responsibilities are still mainly assigned to women,’’ said Deborah France-Massin, director of the ILO’s Bureau for Employers’ Activities. “The glass ceiling is cracked, but it is still far from broken.”

Pay disparity also remains an issue in Asia, but there are exceptions: in the…

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