Opinion: Why championing female success is important
The global fight against COVID-19 has defined the past year. Around the world, we battled one of the biggest challenges we have ever faced as a global community. Yet throughout this crisis, women around the world have shone. Frontline healthcare workers, essential workers, working mothers, and national leaders have all embodied a spirit of perseverance and strength that truly reflect the feelings I have when I think of International Women's' Day.
This year, more so than others, provides us with an opportunity to truly reflect on two crucial actions. To recognize and champion female success across life and around the world, and identify where more can be done to achieve gender equality.
At Trip.com Group, we are proud to be home to an over 50% female workforce. We see the benefits of this every day. Our staff showed incredible resilience, flexibility and initiative during the pandemic. Frontline customer service agents were in constant communication with customers to ensure they could get home safely, helping them make booking changes or secure the refund they required. We were able to pivot to provide crucial travel information to users on border restrictions and travel requirements, as well as update hotel and flight listings to display crucial COVID-19 notices. These achievements, and our continuous innovation to ensure we can keep serving our customers and partners as the travel industry evolves, is delivered by a company where women and men succeed together.
According to the Asian Development Bank, China has one of Asia-Pacific's highest labor force participation rates for women, but the percentage of women in work has decreased in recent years. In 2019, women made up 43.7% of the total labor force, yet the proportion of the women in the workforce has decreased overall since the 1990s. This is a worrying trend that must be counterbalanced with a concerted effort to remove barriers to women entering and finding success in the workplace.
Women need equal opportunities in the labour market, where they can access employment without bias or prejudice. Decision-makers need to step up and take important strides to foster greater equality in leadership and workforces. We need to employ methods to actively support female staff and to make available opportunities for success. This must be done in tandem with reforming unfair practices and stopping the perpetuation of biases.
Working for change and leading with confidence, women in leadership today are having true global impact. We must celebrate and learn from Jacinda Ardern, Erna Solberg, Katrín Jakobsdóttir and female leaders around the world who showed what strong leadership looks like in such challenging times.
Research shows female leaders scored higher in the majority of leadership competencies compared to their male counterparts, that they were often more direct in their concerns and showed higher levels of confidence in their responses. These characteristics and abilities are not uniquely female, they can be developed by any individual. When we recognize and champion behaviours and examples of success, they bring benefit to us all and help to improve society.
Women in leadership, especially strong successful female leaders, shouldn't be unique or rare, yet they often are. Subtle, and sometimes obvious, gender bias affect the chances of achieving leadership positions in organisations. Women earn more than 57% of undergraduate degrees and 59% of all master's degrees, and are quickly approaching half of all pursuing MBAs. However, only 6% of S&P 500 companies are led by women CEOs. These numbers clearly show that there are opaque obstacles to women's mobility on the hierarchical ladder. The gender imbalance in boardrooms isn't limited to one specific nation or region. According to research conducted by Grant Thorton, in 2020 in APAC, women held only 27% of senior managerial positions, one of the lowest proportions globally.
At Trip.com Group, we champion female success. We purposefully celebrate women in leadership, implement gender-inclusive employment policies and foster a positive work culture. Through these efforts, we have been able to attract female talent and create a company where women hold 41% of mid-level managerial positions and over 30% of executive posts.
We can all do more to ensure we have a diversity of voices in boardrooms, offices and workspaces around the world. I am an ardent believer that the most successful teams are those made up with a balance of genders. Our goal in pursuing gender equality is to ensure equal opportunity and rewards for success for all individuals, regardless of gender.
Whereas the past year will be remembered in history for the huge bearing COVID-19 had on the world, we are positive for the future. Women in leadership have global impact, and we must continue to champion them and the achievements of women around the world. We have weathered the storm of the pandemic together. Now, as we gain control and begin to exit this crisis, let's grasp this opportunity to emerge stronger together.
Jane Sun, CEO and board member of leading global online travel services provider, Trip.com Group, shares her optimism for the future of gender equality after a year of outstanding achievements by women. As the world evolves following the pandemic, Sun celebrates female success and calls out areas for greater efforts, laying out a vision for how the world can emerge strong together in this piece. Having first joined Trip.com Group as CFO in 2005, Sun became CEO in 2016, and has been a powerful force in the travel industry as one of only a few female CEOs in the sector.
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