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July 14, 2008

E&Y rolls out gender inclusiveness programme

Ernst & Young (E&Y) China has introduced new measures to improve the opportunities and working conditions for its female employees. The gender inclusiveness scheme aims to support gender diversity in practices across Greater China and help professionals of both sexes achieve personal and professional goals. A similar programme has been run at the E&Y US firm for the past ten years.

E&Y China said it is launching the scheme in response to realities that women face in the workplace, including the effect on work attitudes as a result of China’s One Child policy, growing urban wealth and labour market demands.

In China, women make up the majority of university students graduating from accounting or related subjects, which means finding the right work/life balance for women is becoming increasingly important for firms in the region.

E&Y Greater China people leader Loletta Chow says the firm recognises that women are playing a more significant role in the development of business and the wider marketplace.

“We also recognise that women have different motivations from men. Men tend to focus on their career and be more aggressive in taking up higher positions,” she said. “However, when women reach a certain age, they may face more demands from their families including marrying, starting their own families, taking care of their children and elderly parents. Recognising these needs, we have policies in place to help our women achieve a successful career as well as a personal life. We hope that we can help them to achieve balance between career development and family needs.”

An annual Women’s Leadership Conference is to be held each year as part of the gender inclusiveness programme in Greater China. The first conference was held in Shanghai recently and attended by 140 senior executives. Among the participants were leading women executives at E&Y drawn from across the business.

Successful women leaders in the community were also invited to share their experiences in developing their careers and overcoming the challenges of being working mothers. The event was also attended by high-level male executives.

Other gender equality measures launched by the firm include the introduction of a Flexible Work Arrangements initiative, which helps employees tailor their individual needs and personal commitments with career goals.

“Flexible Work Arrangement is really about acknowledging that people may have different priorities at various stages of their lives and may need a flexible approach to work arrangements,” Chow explained. “So we strive to create the right balance between what works for our people and our clients.”

Rebecca Zhou, the first person working on a reduced work schedule, said: “When I applied for the Flexible Work Arrangement, I had extensive discussions with my team to explore what kind of arrangement is suitable for me and the firm. The arrangement has to meet my needs as well as the firm’s needs… It is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.”

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