Philippines in Top 10 for gender balance in business

"As mindsets become more progressive, the gender gap in wages should narrow."


With much still to do by way of uplifting the condition of women in the Philippines, the country still has a better track record than others in some aspects, particularly in the workplace.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (March 8) is #BalanceForBetter. The slogan pertains to gender balance in all aspects of human activity—in business, media coverage, sports... “Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”

Good news for us, the Philippines has been “among the top 10 most gender-equal countries in the world” for business since the World Economic Forum reports were launched in 2006, according to Sofia Tomacruz of Rappler.

The latest WEF report, released Dec. 18 last year, showed the Philippines at 8th place in the Global Gender Gap report, from 10th place in 2017, having managed to close about 80 percent of the gender gap. It was 7th rank in 2016.

The report ranks 149 countries in four categories: labor force participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The WEF attributed the country’s strong ranking last year to robust efforts to close the gender gap in political empowerment.

Related to this, the rest of the world can learn from the Philippines when it comes to gender balance in the workplace, said University of British Columbia Assistant Professor Michael Daniels, writing in 2015 for the Human Capital Leadership Institute.

“The Philippines is a bright spot in Asia with regard to the status of women… Women are…more heavily represented in business in the Philippines than in neighboring countries,” said Daniels.

He cited global professional services firm Grant Thornton’s data on the Philippines: the country ranked first in Southeast Asia and fifth worldwide for the proportion of women holding senior management roles, with 37 percent of such roles occupied by women. And women comprise an average of 34 percent of corporate boards in the Philippines, exceeding the global average of 19 percent.

“Clearly, the Philippines is more progressive than both its Asian neighbours and a majority of Western countries in terms of gender diversity,” he added.

When discussing women in the workplace, the female overseas Filipino workers must be considered. The Philippine Statistics Authority Women and Men Handbook 2016 shows that in 2015, there were 1.25 million female OFWs compared to 1.197 million male workers. Saudi Arabia was the most common destination for female OFWs in 2014 and 2015, and ‘laborers and unskilled workers’ the most common occupation.

As of December 2018, total remittances were at $21 billion. It is unknown how much of that amount women OFWs contributed, but it’s pretty safe to say a sizable percentage.

These are interesting statistics, but what they show is that there aren’t enough well-paying jobs to go around in the country. Women employed in the local workplace seem to be doing well enough, but over a million others are forced to travel abroad to find work to support their families.

This situation needs to be addressed because of the social cost of parents working overseas. Their absence takes a toll on family life, and children are raised by relatives or other people.

In the Philippines, population is almost exactly divided between the sexes. The Philippine Statistics Authority projects the 2019 population of women at 53.7 million, men at 54.7 million. Of the women aged 15 years and older, 46.6 percent are employed or looking for work compared to 75.1 percent of men.

But the agency’s 2015 data also shows that women bring home more bacon than men—P284,000 average annual income compared to P262,000—and save more—P58,000 compared to P50,000 in average annual savings.

Women are making good use of the gender diversity in the workplace by pulling more than their own weight. As mindsets become more progressive, the gender gap in wages should narrow. Having salaries fixed to positions, as they are in government, is a good start.

Moreover, the new laws being created often specify that there should be women on the board or commission. The near future should see more women in the boardroom and senior management than the current one-third.

As the country observes Women’s Day, let us remember that women are, as the Philippine Commission on Women says, “active contributors to and claimholders of development.” 

Mao Zedong: “Women hold up half the sky.” / FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Jenny Ortuoste , International Women’s Day , #BalanceForBetter , World Economic Forum
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