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RTHK Radio 3 Hashtag Hong Kong on Mother’s Day

Live at RTHK Radio 3 Hashtag Hong Kong – May 14, 2023

May is the month of Mother's Day and it is the start of the year for our charitable organization - Hong Kong Momtrepreneurs. We celebrate the success of the past year and look forward to the year to come.

In the past few years, the whole world has suffered; Hong Kong has struggled; all mothers have endeavoured. According to the Mckinsey Women in the Workplace report in 2022, for every woman at the director level who gets promoted to the next level, two women directors are choosing to leave their company. Covid has hit women hard; despite how both men and women had to stay home, we all know the reality that most women had to bear child care and other family responsibilities. The additional stresses and tensions women had suffered during the pandemic had become extra burdens for them to progress any further in the workplace. The McKinsey Report further highlights that 43% of women leaders are burned out, compared to only 31% of men at their level as they are often overworked and under-recognized. Women are more likely to take up roles and responsibilities in DEI and other works to improve retention and employee satisfaction work that are not often appreciated and recognized.

Focusing on Hong Kong in particular, there remain a number of structural problems in our society. In Hong Kong, we have less than 1,800 childcare placements for 0-2 years old and there are continuous insufficient flexible work arrangements — all of these making it difficult and challenging for women in Hong Kong to continue working after the birth of their children. Nevertheless, we are taking baby steps in Hong Kong to provide more support to mothers to be retained in the workforce. Finally, we have an extended maternity leave from 10 weeks to 14 weeks and there are more protections by law against discrimination on sex, marital status, pregnancy, breastfeeding, disability and family status, yet there is still a lot we could do to build a more inclusive society.

If there is one good side product of the pandemic - it is the fact that companies of all sizes are forced to build some infrastructures to adapt to remote and flexible work arrangements. It has become a norm now to have hybrid work arrangements to allow staff to work from home 1 to 2 days per week. This has enabled both women and men to have the flexibility to get work done without restricting them to be there at the office from 9 to 5.

Technology has allowed us to work anytime and anywhere and that work can be done efficiently and effectively without physical constraints. We also see more empathy and understanding from employers and fellow co-workers for staff members with family caring responsibilities. We all remember the time we saw a child stepping into the room or a pet walking across the screen when our colleagues were conducting a video call. Work-life balance was no longer a topic of discussion because work/life have blended together. We know more about our colleagues and our bosses, what they do at work and how they behave at home.

In 2022, we conducted focus groups to examine whether, through motherhood, mothers acquire positive attributes that make them better leaders in the workplace and in society. “Do Mothers Make Better Leaders?” was the thought leadership of Hong Kong Momtrepreneurs last year to break the stereotype of the “Motherhood Penalty” and to combat biases against mothers returning to the workplace after a career break. From the physical and psychological changes from motherhood, women have more empathy, better understanding, more patience, better negotiation skills and more gratitude. There should be more open minds and acceptance to accept women and men returning to work after a prolonged career break as they can bring diverse perspectives and contributions to our unilateral workforce.

In the near future, I wish:

1. There should be a fair number of daycare facilities in Hong Kong to make it more economically viable as compared to the current child care supported by family or migrant workers.

2. There should be a practice of job sharing and other innovative forms of work arrangement to provide more jobs to more.

3. There should be more real resources put into recruiting returnees back to work and retaining female talents.

It is Mother’s Day today and the first one in the past 3 years where there is no limit to how you like to celebrate this with your mothers, so please join me and put our hands together for all mothers. This Morning, I would like to dedicate this song : The One Thing by Shakira for all mothers and you listening. Enjoy~

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