Home' A Plus Magazine : March 2013 Contents resistance to the measure noted by pro-
diversity advocates. “I believe the main
challenge is to change the mindset of exist-
ing board members to accept diversity,” says
Jenny To, regional recruitment and talent
development director at Pernod Ricard Asia
in Hong Kong and an Institute member.
International experts warn that existing
boards might resent an invasion of newcom-
ers with different backgrounds. “People [who
come from outside] the mainstream could be
sidelined or kept out of the decision-making
process,” says Joseph Santana, a diversity
and inclusion consultant in New York.
Allen agrees, saying that if HKEx had
made board diversity mandatory rather
than a “comply or explain” code provision,
there would have been fiercer resistance.
“I guarantee there would have been a lot
of opposition,” he says. “ There were a lot of
quite sexist responses to the proposal.”
Another challenge is the limited pool of
“ board-ready” professionals in Hong Kong.
“ The number of senior accountants and law-
yers around town is somewhat limited,” says
Pogson at Ernst & Young. “ You find a lot of
familiar faces on boards around town.”
One solution is the pool of board-ready
women that the Hong Kong government has
appointed over the years to statutory bodies.
“It’s actually about building a pipeline,”
says Pogson. “People have progressed by
sitting on government bodies, charities and
subsidiary boards so when they end up on
the main board of a major organization they
have a good track record.”
Pogson points to the launch next month
of a Hong Kong branch of the London-based
30 Percent Club, a female-director advocacy
group, as an encouraging development.
“ We’ve got a lot of support around town for
that,” he says.
What also remains to be seen is how
many diverse characters will actually seek
or accept Hong Kong board appointments.
“ The rewards of sitting on boards are not
very exciting,” says Pogson. “ There needs to
be a revisit on board remuneration so that
you do attract the right talent.”
Diversity advocates remain hopeful,
however. Su-Mei Thompson, chief executive
of The Women’s Foundation, a Hong Kong
advocacy group, says there’s no reason why
the city can’t lead the world in diversity.
“As a major financial centre with an
abundant talent pool of qualified men and
women, I believe Hong Kong has the oppor-
tunity to assert itself as a modern, sophisti-
cated economy that nurtures talent across
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