A new class of women who are educated, employed and empowered are reshaping the region towards a more egalitarian and prosperous future.
The financial power now exercised by women is changing consumer and investment markets beyond recognition.
A report from the Boston Consulting Group estimated the amount of wealth controlled by women globally has grown by 8% annually from the end of 2009 to 2014, led by women in emerging markets.
The phenomenon of Asia broadly getting wealthier has a knock-on effect on the growing affluence of Asian women that is amplified by changing social attitudes, better access to education, greater social mobility and a new class of female entrepreneurs.
The Grant Thornton International Business Report showed China, with the highest percentage of women in senior management with 51% compared to 25% last year; the Philippines (37%); Thailand (36%); and Vietnam (33%) the only Asian countries joining the Top 10 ranks.
In Malaysia, 26% of senior management positions are held by women compared with a third across Asean.
Today, with more women in Asia getting the same opportunities in education and employment, they stand a better chance at achieving the kind of retirement they want compared to women in past generations.
In Malaysia, saving habits among men and women are almost equal with 47% and 46% respectively. Malaysian women also ranked 5th among 27 countries. The survey showed they have the discipline to budget and stick to it.
On overall financial literacy, Malaysian women ranked 7th among 27 countries.
On average, Malaysian women save 2.2 months’ worth of household income and men save 30% more than women on a monthly basis. A total of 32% of men also have a financial plan compared to only 28% of women.
HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd retail banking and wealth management head Lim Eng Seong said “The financial emancipation of Asian women mirrors changing Asian demographics where they are beginning to earn substantial amounts earlier in their career, but they require greater substantial planning for old age.
“Our research shows on average women are still under-prepared for retirement, with 10 years of savings for 23 years of post-employment life.
“Women are still not doing enough to invest in their future and while they are disciplined budgeters, they lack the confidence when it comes to investing.
“Among our increasing affluent female customers, we see a pattern emerging that correlates with the average life cycle and life planning among women.”
He said characteristically, women plan and prepare more effectively for a crisis.
“For instance, a young woman in her 20s might start off conservatively by investing in property for its stable income, and between her 30s and 40s make inroads into the equities market to generate funds for education and family travel and by her 50s and 60s returning to property as source of retirement income or residence for her parents and adult children.”
HSBC senior wealth development manager Woo Chui Chui said, “Numerous studies showed women are more averse to investment risk and establish investment goals that put the needs of the family ahead of personal needs.”
“Typically, they shy away from uncertainty to avoid incurring large losses resulting in falling below a target rate of return.”
Women tend to exert stronger self-discipline in sticking to their strategies to avoid the common problem of over-trading as such, reduce the probability of so-called market timing, buying at the top of the market and selling at the bottom,” he said.
“The traits that make women successful are transferable to private investing where the most important first steps are planning, understanding one’s needs and appetite for risk and a continued dialogue with a trusted adviser to make sure they are on the right track to achieving their financial goals,” he said.