Closing the gender gap in the workplace

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Though the Philippines has taken strides to improve workplace gender equality, research by various women empowerment groups and inclusive employing industries ahead of International Women’s Day 2022 have found that sustainable practices must be instituted for women to be better off.

For instance, a report titled “Workplace Gender Equality-Sustainability Reporting: Initial Analysis of the Top 30 Publicly Listed Companies (PLCs) in the Philippines as of July 2021” was able to get companies to disclose their policies on board diversity, safe and respectful workplaces, employee training and development, and gender pay equity.

“Gender equality indicators play a significant role in the narrative and conduct of sustainability reports,” said Ma. Aurora “Boots” D. Geotina-Garcia, Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE) co-chair, at a March 4 policy forum. 

“Philippine PLCs are compliant [with] policies and regulations and are making it clear that disclosures concerning people are critical to recover from the pandemic,” she added.

PBCWE is one of the partners engaged in policy reform work for gender equality, along with the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN),the Australian initiative Investing in Women (IW), and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). 

The report also uncovered insights on gender composition in the country’s top companies, with reports of over 50% of employees being male in the mining, power, energy, and telecommunications industries.

Jose Solomon Cortez, associate director of the Ramon del Rosario Sr. Center for Corporate Social Responsibility at the Asian Institute of Management, brought up the need for a third-party entity to validate the information the companies were disclosing. 

“One of the challenges that we found companies faced is in finding the right balance of what gender-related information they are to disclose based on existing regulatory requirements, or if they’re adopting to globally accepted standards or business principles,” he explained at the policy forum. 

He also pointed out that one company in the report claimed there was no gender pay gap in their organization, something that as of now there is no means to verify. 

DOING WELLThe World Bank (WB) said in its Women, Business and the Law 2022 report released this month that legal and economic gender equality in the Philippines had no change in the past year, especially in terms of parenthood, marriage, and assets metrics.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum (WEF) acknowledged in its Global Gender Gap Report 2021 the country’s progress in narrowing the gender gap in terms of economic participation and opportunities. The Philippines ranked 17th out of 156 countries.

For more marked improvements, policymaking and gender reporting must continuously be ramped up, according to Dr. Allinnettes Go Adigue, head of the Association of South East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) regional hub of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

“While we do so well in education and health, we’re not doing so well in economy and politics,” she said at the forum. “If the sector is mostly dominated by men, then we have men deciding and creating policies that also impact women. That’s why it is important to have more representation of women in terms of policymaking.” 

She also said the PBCWE report’s findings were consistent with key global findings on women’s issues, adding that sustainability reporting was introduced in 1997 and is still not yet widely adopted and institutionalized to this day. 

Kelvin Lester Lee, commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), assured that they are working towards making it mandatory in the country by 2023, as stipulated in the Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 04 s. 2019, which requires PLCs to submit an annual sustainability report.

“But one issue we’ve been facing is that it was issued back in 2019. We are a little wary on the effect that COVID has had on the resources of PLCs,” he said. “[2023] is still the goal but we are studying the possibility of moving it a little bit.”

The MC in question obligates companies to create a sustainable business landscape and implement environmental and social initiatives that will benefit future generations. 

While global and nationwide policies are still being improved, companies in the meantime must start instilling good practices to build a culture of empowering women, according to Ambe C. Tierro, senior managing director and technology lead of professional services group Accenture in the Philippines.

The group’s study, Better to Belong, launched on March 2, explored the ways women can thrive in inclusive organizations. The results showed that when women feel “net better off” (NBO), or respected, appreciated, and supported in the workplace, their maximized potential will ultimately lead to better corporate results.

These findings came from a 2021 survey of 7,000 employees across 14 countries. 

“Trust, job satisfaction, and great place to work are directly impacted when we address the NBO dimensions,” shared Ms. Tierro. “Top performing employees had higher scores on those three aspects compared to those performing less satisfactorily.” 

The six dimensions in the NBO framework are financial, emotional and mental, relational, physical, purposeful, and employable. If employers address these concerns from women employees, then it will improve the working environment, she said. 

Accenture found that 29% of women surveyed reported having lower support compared with only 26% of the men who said the same. Meanwhile, 20% of women reported dissatisfaction with their job compared with just 17% of the men.
Ms. Tierro stressed: “When leaders support people during moments that matter, employees are left ‘net better off.’ That’s when we promote true inclusion and diversity and a culture where people feel that they belong.” — Bronte H. Lacsamana

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