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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in the Asia Pacific region lag behind men in securing leadership roles in business and politics despite being better educated, an annual gender equality index revealed on Friday.
Female university students outnumber male students in 10 of the 16 countries surveyed, including China, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Women are also fast becoming as active in the workplace as men in most countries in the region, according to the MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women's Advancement.
It ranked New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines and Singapore as the best countries for women, while India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka performed the worst.
"Companies with more women in leadership outperform those who do not, so the male dominance of leadership roles should be concerning," said Georgette Tan, MasterCard spokeswoman for the Asia-Pacific region.
"They are beginning to understand why integrating talented women into leadership structures is imperative for sustainable economic growth and innovation in both developed and developing markets."
The index, compiled following surveys with 8,235 women, measures gender parity based on employment, education and leadership opportunities.
It showed that New Zealand and the Philippines are the only two countries with more than 50 female business and government leaders and business owners for every 100 of their male counterparts.
Thai women have made the most significant progress in obtaining business leadership roles since the index began in 2007, while the ratio of female-to-male politicians in the Philippines has doubled in the last nine years.
Although women in most countries in the Asia-Pacific region are better-educated than men, female students in India, South Korea and Bangladesh have fewer opportunities when it comes to secondary and university education, the index showed.
In terms of having regular employment, women in India, Bangladesh and China have made the biggest strides towards gender equality since 2007.
The survey was conducted in Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Reporting By Kieran Guilbert