While browsing through my social media feed, I chanced upon a video of what appeared at first as a typical commentary on driving. The video was taken from inside a moving car, focused on the vehicle right in front, which, for the purpose of clear storytelling, we shall refer to as Car 2. Snide remarks were made about the driving skills of the person manning Car 2. I would have moved on to the next video, had I not heard a comment that has become so typical that it very well could have been taken for a fact – “Babae siguro ang driver”.
It is a remark that suggests neither a bad nor good connotation, but definitely not neutral. What lies beneath such comment is an undeniable truth: we have grown accustomed to rudimentary classification of roles and strengths based on gender alone. At this day and age, when technology is at the heart of advancement, gender stereotypes remain prevalent. Principles under liberal thinking suggest that women’s emancipation from gender discrimination is a good marker of modernity. However, as strides are made towards further progressivity and digitalization, gender bias is still evident today. And we, somehow, ought to be blamed.
Society has long condoned acts that put up a gender divide. Men work, women stay at home to focus on child-rearing. Even in sexual harassment cases, women are often blamed for their provocative outfits. But not all hope is lost. There are a number of legislations advocating for the preservation of women’s rights and for gender equality. Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women recognizes the discrimination and the realities faced by women, and puts in place measures to safeguard their rights, all in line with the constitutional mandate that the State shall recognize women’s role in nation-building and that the government has the concurrent responsibility to afford them protection.
Discrimination at work
Still, gender discrimination is seen at various instances. Although the Philippines is considered a relatively gender equal country, ranking 17th out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, a lot remains to be done to break the gender bias, particularly in the workplace. Consider this: a study by found that gender discrimination is present as early as during the hiring process, with 1 out of 6 women in the Philippines reporting that they were initially asked by their job interviewers if they have plans to have children. Things get more interesting when we look at the fact that a gap in pay is still present. Data reveal that on average, male employees are paid P5,000 more than female staff.
The solution is simple. Companies, regardless of size and the industry in which they operate, should strive to usher in inclusivity and bridge the so-called gender gap still prevalent in many workplaces today. But this is easier said than done. In the Philippines, a Philippine Statistics Authority report cited that when the pandemic hit, the jobless rate for men was pegged at 7.9%. For women, the jobless rate hit 8.3%, suggesting that women found it harder to find jobs during this period.
Benefits of embracing inclusivity
To help ease this burden, companies should pave the way for gender equality to flourish, and it all starts through effective implementation of policies geared toward this goal. Businesses have nothing to lose, only so much to gain.
One of the benefits of embracing inclusivity is increased profitability. The results of a USAID survey of Fortune 500 companies show that companies run by women leaders showed more impressive performance compared to those which did not have as many female leaders.
With a more diverse work culture, companies can boost productivity and in turn, see efficient company performance. This is because gender inclusivity allows companies to have a wider talent pool and therefore, they can take advantage of a wider skillset than those companies who do not prioritize such initiative.
Today, a bigger challenge is left to female leaders. How can they contribute to mitigating gender disparity in their organizations?
Promote inclusivity for all
Inclusivity not only means opening doors and giving equal opportunity to men and women. Promoting inclusivity means treating all employees equally. The aim is not simply to avoid gender discrimination in various aspects of work. There is a need to celebrate the milestones of everyone in the workforce, regardless of gender and job position, and to give them the recognition they rightfully deserve. This is the core message that management must emulate: inclusivity for all and not just inclusivity for women versus men.
Lastly, welcome change
Even the longest journey starts with a single step. Start by acknowledging that the corporate setting is not just a man’s world; it is shared by all – men and women, regardless of title or designation. Women have established that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with when it comes to growing a business. They are capable of running a business as efficiently as men can. Today, we see women alongside their male counterparts leading through example, toughened by years of hard work and experience. A change in corporate mindset about women’s capabilities should be adopted, lest we forget our responsibility to bridge the so-called gender gap and fail to break this bias.
Helping eliminate gender disparity in the workplace is hard work, but it is a must. In helping spark this change, a new mindset on inclusivity should be implemented by leaders, if only to inspire other companies to follow suit. They must ensure that the rights of women employees are protected, so that the next time they hear the saying “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”, they can pause, smile, and dare to say, “women are from Mars too”.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 09 March 2022