Data shows the need to redouble efforts to enhance women in leadership posts in South-East Asia


[Joint press release]
[For immediate release]

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia — Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must redouble efforts to correct the slim representation of women in leadership posts across multiple sectors of society – or they will risk holding back the region’s full potential for COVID-19 pandemic recovery and sustainable growth.

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This week’s ASEAN Women Leaders’ Summit, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Finance Ministers’ Meeting next week, and the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November should pay heed to the findings of a new report, Data Snapshot: Women’s Leadership in the ASEAN Region, co-written by UN Women and the Government of Cambodia as Chair of ASEAN.

“In the ASEAN region, there is increasing recognition of the role of women as leaders and agents of change,” the report says. “However, more efforts are still required to promote their roles in accelerating productivity, enhancing ecosystem conservation and creating more sustainable and inclusive development.”

“Gender equality is everyone’s business and a smart investment. Leadership positions and decision-making power for women are crucial to ensure that their voices are heard and their roles are acknowledged and harnessed both in public and private sectors of ASEAN,” said H.E.Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Cambodia.

“Including more women in leadership is important to promote a more equitable recovery from the pandemic in ASEAN countries. There is an increasing recognition of the gendered impact of COVID-19 and the critical role that women played in the response. We need to ensure they can continue to participate and have greater leadership role in the COVID-19 recovery,” said Sarah Knibbs, Regional Director, a.i. of UN Women in Asia and the Pacific.

The report showed that across the 10 ASEAN countries as a group:

  • The share of women managers rose only 2 percentage points in 20 years (from 39 per cent in 2000 to 41 per cent in 2020), while the share in middle and senior management stands at a much lower 26 per cent.
  • In political governance, women hold 22 per cent of parliament seats, but women ministers are often relegated to leading committees on gender equality and women’s affairs.
  • Even though women make up 67 per cent of health-care workers, the front-line responders to the pandemic, only 11 per cent of chief executive officers in the region’s biggest hospitals are women, and ASEAN’s ministers of health are all men, except for Viet Nam’s.
  • Women led only 6 per cent of environment and related ministries in 2020. Further opportunities to engage in environmental decision-making could enable them to promote environmental conservation, including indigenous women, who are typically holders of traditional ecological knowledge.
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Media inquiries:

Montira Narkvichien, UN Women | montira.narkvichien[at]

Tha Bonavy, Deputy Director, Department of Information,
Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Cambodia |

Note to Editor:

Full report and the key messages can be accessed here