Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong, China, has long been recognized in East Asia, the Pacific region, and beyond as one of the best places to be an entrepreneur. More...
Hong Kong, China, has long been recognized in East Asia, the Pacific region, and beyond as one of the best places to be an entrepreneur. As of September 2014, about 320,000 SMEs accounted for over 98 percent of total businesses and 47 percent of total employment. The city-state ranked third overall in the World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business report. According to findings from Google and the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for Entrepreneurship, the startup ecosystem of Hong Kong, China, has grown by almost 300 percent between 2009 and 2014, with significant growth in physical hubs, start-up accelerators and incubators, funding providers, and university support. Hong Kong, China, is also known as the “world’s most connected city,” where enterprises use accessible, network-ready technologies to connect with suppliers, customers, service providers, and other key communities in new and innovative ways.
There is an increasing awareness on the part of local corporations to break the "glass ceiling" and provide more opportunities for women at the management level. This has resulted in an increase in female managers and administrators from 24 percent of all managers and administrators in 2000 to 31 percent in 2013, while female professionals increased from 32 percent to 38 percent and female associate professionals from 40 percent to 46 percent. At the top of the civil service, nearly half of all 18 Permanent Secretaries are female. Notwithstanding this, there is still room for improvement: the rate of women’s participation in the labor force was 54.5 percent in 2013, compared with 69.1 percent for men. Hong Kong, China, trails two-thirds of APEC members on this count. Research published in 2009 by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) further shows that the male-to-female ratio in early stage entrepreneurial activity in Hong Kong, China, is 2.2:1, compared with 1.3:1 in China and 1.7:1 in the United States. Women’s pay in Hong Kong, China, lags behind that of their male counterparts by an average of 20 percent. Fewer women in Hong Kong, China, work in venture capital and private equity firms; however, 49 percent of certified public accountants and 46 percent of solicitors were women in 2013. Only 2 percent of CEOs of companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange are women. Compared with women in peer economies, women in Hong Kong, China, are far less engaged as corporate board members than men. A study by Community Business, a local not-for-profit, recently found that just 11.1 percent of the board members among the Hang Seng Index’s leading companies were women. To address this issue, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange introduced a new Code Provision in 2013 requiring listed issuers to disclose their board diversity policy on a comply or explain basis.
On the one hand, women now attain educational milestones – including graduation from secondary school and universities – at the same or better rates than men. The Government has been promoting lifelong education for women. The Capacity Building Mileage Programme of the Women’s Commission offers lifelong learning courses to women through live classroom intervention, radio broadcasts, and e-learning online. On the other hand, at home and in school, women are less likely to take economic or employment-related risks and their economic participation falls significantly after marriage. The most recent Policy Address by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong contained a number of proposals to help women to stay in the workforce. The most recent Policy Address by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong contained a number of proposals to help women to stay in the workforce, such as encouraging employers to provide more part-time work opportunities or enhancing care services for women.
Research conducted by The Women’s Foundation, a Hong Kong, China, NGO, shows that female entrepreneurs value mentoring for personal and professional support. Further research by GEM has found that, compared with men, fewer women believe themselves to have the capabilities for entrepreneurship, and more are dissuaded from starting up due to fear of failure.
According to a 2013 study on women and entrepreneurship by The Women’s Foundation, women that spend time abroad report that they have a broadened mindset which makes them more positively inclined to embrace the risk of failure that is part of business entrepreneurship. Considered together, this hints at the key role of formal and informal networks, and the value of mentoring, in changing perceptions and advancing female entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, China.
Numerous organizations and online resources provide information on the landscape of support services available to entrepreneurs. The SME Creativity Center aggregates links to entrepreneur and women’s communities, banks, angel organizations, and business development resources. SME One (part of the Hong Kong Productivity Council) provides links to funding schemes and other resources to support local SMEs in their growth and development. StartmeupHK provides access to start-up incubators, government support programs, angel and venture capitalist resources, and links to co-work spaces, entrepreneurship clubs, workshops, seminars and start-up events. Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks has information on numerous incubation programs, technology support and laboratory services, business collaboration opportunities, and venture capital financing.
Given its vibrant, dynamic, and transparent conditions for entrepreneurship to flourish, Hong Kong, China is well positioned to make gains in women’s entrepreneurship. There is considerable room to introduce programs successfully adopted in other economies, including lending opportunities marketed directly toward women, business incubators for women-owned enterprises, increased mentoring opportunities, and strengthened business networks.
As one of the world’s global business hubs, Hong Kong, China, is home to numerous business networks. Many of these organizations are Hong Kong, China, chapters of global business associations, and most are not targeted at women entrepreneurs. As summarized in a 2012 report by The Women’s Foundation, “There are almost no gender-targeted policies and programs for women business owners in Hong Kong.”
Established women entrepreneurs can join one of the sector-specific Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) Departments, Trade Associations & Consulates to exchange information on policy developments and explore new markets and business opportunities. They may also seek membership in the Women Executives Club at the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, allowing them to benefit from the Chamber’s networks in China and abroad.
The Women’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 2004, stands out as a key provider of mentoring and networking opportunities and skills training for professional women and women entrepreneurs. The Foundation is in the process of launching a TWF Entrepreneurs Network with the support of a range of resource partners including ANZ Bank, Cisco, EY, Google and InvestHK, and in partnership with both for profit and social entrepreneurs groups including the Entrepreneurs Club, Heels & Deals, the HK Women Professionals and Entrepreneurs Association, the Golden Bauhinia Women Entrepreneurs Association and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service’s Social Enterprise members. TWF initiatives so far include a series of workshops sponsored by Google empowering women entrepreneurs to scale up using the Internet and online tools, and seminars with InvestHK to encourage overseas founders to start SMEs in Hong Kong in the consumer products sector. Another organization, the HK Women Professionals and Entrepreneurs Association has taken a number of approaches to women’s empowerment in Hong Kong, China. Unfortunately, its Women’s Business Start-Up Assistance Scheme seems to have lapsed in recent years.
Networks that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Networks that support women’s access to markets:
Networks that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Networks that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Networks that support women and innovation and technology:
The private sector in Hong Kong, China, has not been particularly visible in supporting women entrepreneurs. A handful of global companies, Google and Harvey Nash among them, are beginning to pilot initiatives to reach women entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, banking services tailored for women are absent. The only member of the Global Banking Alliance for women in Hong Kong, China, is Standard Chartered, but it does not appear to provide any women-specific services through its SME banking services. Neither the bank’s Women in Business Resource Centre or Goal Girls initiatives implement activities in Hong Kong, China. There are, however, some global business financing initiatives from which Hong Kong, China women entrepreneurs can benefit, such as the Global Banking Alliance for Women.
Initiatives that support women’s access to capital and assets:
Initiatives that support women’s access to markets:
Initiatives that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business:
Initiatives that support women’s leadership, voice and agency:
Initiatives that support women and innovation and technology:
Institutional and policy frameworks are favorable for entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, China, and women are allowed to work in the same sectors, under the same conditions, and at the same hours as men. While there are a number of government-backed SME support programs available for all entrepreneurs, no government bodies focus specifically on women’s business ownership or women’s entrepreneurship. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is the central vehicle through which the government supports trade promotion and growth of SMEs. Many government-backed credit services provide loans to SMEs, but they are not women-specific.
There are a variety of government services that support technology firms or tech entrepreneurs (for example, through the Innovation and Technology Fund), and other special focus areas include the youth, innovation, and competitiveness, but not women.
The Government attaches great importance to promoting the overall well-being of women. The Women's Commission, established in 2001, plays a high-level strategic role in advising the Government on policies, legislation and services affecting women. With the assistance of the Women's Commission, the Government has since 2002 started to implement gender mainstreaming in a progressive manner, taking into consideration the perspectives and needs of women and men in formulating relevant policies and measures. The Government has developed and applied a Gender Mainstreaming Checklist, comprised of key principles and approaches, to over 45 specific policy or program areas. The Government sets a gender benchmark to increase women’s participation in public sector advisory and statutory bodies. The benchmark has been progressively increased from 25 percent in 2004 to 35 percent in 2015. Public services for the needs or aspirations of entrepreneurs are mostly gender neutral. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority reports that banking services in Hong Kong, China, are mostly gender neutral, as are other private commercial day-to-day services.
Given the abundance of services available to Hong Kong, China, entrepreneurs but the dearth of services targeted to women specifically, prominent schemes and programs which take a gender-blind approach to entrepreneurship support are set forth in this section.