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Article24 Jun 2022

Gender Diversity: Asia and the Economic Opportunity Gap

On average, women still have only three-quarters of the economic rights of men, according to the World Bank. A recent report by Citi Research’s Edward McKinnon looks at how Asia companies are helping to close the economic participation and opportunity gap through progress in board diversity.

Citi analysts identified 106 companies that are leading the way in gender equality in Asia, primarily based on the gender diversity of their boards.

Leaders were identified across ~1,300 stocks under Citi coverage, in 16 sectors, and 12 Asian economies: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The analysis provides a ‘pulse’ check on gender equality progress in Asia, providing insights into the progression of women within leadership roles, the key contributor to the economic participation and opportunity gap in the region.

The Global Gender Gap index is a leading method for assessing progress towards gender equality within individual nations, prepared by the World Economic Forum. It is assessed across four key dimensions:

  1. Economic Participation and Opportunity,
  2. Educational Attainment,
  3. Health and Survival,
  4. Political Empowerment.

Each of these dimensions also receives its own individual gap score. The full Citi report focused primarily on the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap.


Gender Gaps across Asia Pacific, 2021
A summary of Gender Gap scores across the Asia Pacific per the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021

© 2022 Citigroup Inc. No redistribution without Citigroup’s written permission.

1As per defined regions within the Global Gender Gap Report 2021
2Out of 156 Countries
3Note: ranking affected by number of countries indexed in various editions; constant sample of 107 countries covered continuously since 2006
Note: 2006 data not available for Viet Nam, and Hong Kong and Taiwan not included in Global Gender Gap Report 2021
Source: World Economic Forum, Citi Research


Female representation on boards is 15.03% on average in Asia Pacific, with Healthcare, Real Estate and Media & Telecommunications leading in terms of average board diversity across the coverage set. These sectors average 18.3%, 17.9% and 16.6% women on their boards, respectively. Autos, Capital Goods and Materials lag in terms of average board diversity, with averages of 12.8%, 12.3% and 11.4% women on their boards, respectively.

270 companies were found to have no female representation on their boards, per Citi’s analysis. Metals & Mining, Capital Goods and Materials have the greatest portions of companies with no female board representation – at 29.4%, 26.7% and 27.5% in the respective sectors. Gender parity has been achieved at 32 companies, defined as them having >50% female representation on their boards.  

Investor expectations are progressing across Asia. Indonesia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia have shown progress through various means. Almost half of OECD countries now require companies to report gender pay gap statistics, including Japan and Australia in Asia Pacific. According to Citi, investors are increasingly setting minimum expectations for gender diversity when engaging with corporates, with board and senior leadership a key focus.

What is driving the Gender Gap across Asia Pacific?

Political Empowerment is by far biggest contributor according to the Citi survey.  The difference between the Political Empowerment score and the highest sub-index score in each economy is as wide as 92.2% in Japan – where the Educational Attainment Gap is close to parity at 98.3% but the Political Empowerment Gap is as low as 6.1%.

Educational Attainment and Health and Survival are close to parity for most. In all economies, the Educational Attainment Gap and Health and Survival Gap is higher than 93%, with most very close to parity on these sub-indices. In fact, New Zealand and Australia have achieved parity on Educational Attainment.

The Economic Participation and Opportunity Gap, whilst significantly better than the Political Empowerment Gap, is also a major contributor to the Gender Gap in the Asia-Pacific. The difference between the Economic Participation and Opportunity Gap and the highest sub-index score in each economy is as wide as 63.6% in India – where the Educational Attainment Gap is close to parity at 96.2% but the Economic Participation and Opportunity Gap is as low as 32.6%. This difference is on average 31.3% among the economies reviewed.

Furthering gender equality in the workplace should not only significantly contribute to closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity Gap, but also the Gender Gap overall. According to the Citi analysts, this presents a significant opportunity for companies to directly contribute to significant positive social impact, whilst also reaping the direct benefits of gender equality in the workplace. Economic participation and opportunity enable economic empowerment for women and enable diverse, inclusive and innovative organizations. For more information on this subject, please see the full report here Pan Asia ESG & SRI - Which Corporates Are Leading Gender Diversity in Asia?

Citi Global Insights (CGI) is Citi’s premier non-independent thought leadership curation. It is not investment research; however, it may contain thematic content previously expressed in an Independent Research report. For the full CGI disclosure, click here.



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