Asia hiring is hot right now, and if you're looking for a job there and you're a woman, there are cultural differences that you need to be aware of.
Asia's trading floors and finance boardrooms are heavily male-dominated – even more so than in Western countries. The 2009 World Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum points out that women in Asia serve in only 25% of senior roles, compared with 38% in Western countries (Germany, U.S., France and the U.K.). To find out how women who work in finance an Asia survived and thrived in such a male-dominated environment, Heidrick & Struggles interviewed women in senior management roles across Asia, including many working in equity, fixed income, and FX.
When it comes to office socializing, respondents tended to avoid informal social activities and preferred to spend more time with each other or by themselves away from the men they work with. Such self-exclusion results in myriad missed opportunities for promotions or good assignments, the study concluded. If you're working in Asia, make sure to involve yourself in the social gatherings of your colleagues. No one can root for you at the top if they don't know your name (or beer preference).
The Trading Floor
The women interviewed said that though sales and trading can be a boys' club, they are able to succeed in the competitive environment. The majority said they hadn't made any changes to their work habits, while 24% said they had to stand up for themselves more than they would have if it were a female-dominated business. Generally, they said that the culture isn't going to change to accommodate women. Rather, it welcomes women who can "fit in."
Takeaway: What You Need to Do to Get Ahead
According to the study, women working in finance in Asia should find a mentor, and more importantly a sponsor. A sponsor can advocate on your behalf at the highest levels, ensuring your name comes up when promotion-time rolls around. It will be up to you to cultivate relationships with the senior female -- and male -- executives. Those directives may not seem so different than what you would need to do in a Western working environment. But because the culture is much more entrenched -- think Nomura's dress guidelines for ex-Lehman women -- you'll have to be flexible in how you adapt.
Write to Julie Steinberg
Related: Top Five Asian Hiring Hotspots | How to Get a Finance Job in Asia | Living and Working in Asia