MANILA, Philippines — With 43 percent of Filipino women executives holding senior management positions, the Philippines ranked first among 32 countries surveyed in having the most number of women executives in top leadership roles, according to the Grant Thornton International’s 2020 Women in Business report.
South Africa, Poland and Mexico followed the Philippine ranking in the survey that also included Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam. The number of Filipino women executives in senior management posts hit 37.5 percent in 2018, 40 percent in 2017 and 39 percent in 2016, the report said, adding that globally, the three-year average is 42 percent.
Local data from the report indicates that the top three roles of Filipino women executives are chief finance officer (CFO) at 38 percent of Philippine businesses surveyed, human resources (HR) director at 36 percent, and chief operating officer (COO) at 23 percent.
Last year, the top three positions were HR director at 52 percent, CFO at 45 percent, and COO at 37 percent.
Same three roles
“We are seeing that the most significant roles in business operations — strategy, finance and people — are being held by women,” said Marivic Españo, the chair and CEO of P&A Grant Thornton, the local affiliate of Grant Thornton International Ltd., one of the world’s leading independent assurance, tax and advisory firm.
“The percentages have decreased this year, and it is interesting to note that women are holding these same three roles,” she added in a statement. “We hope to see more women step up into the chief executive officer or managing director role in the future.”
The report also showed that businesses are taking more action to increase gender diversity in the workplace, with 94 percent of Filipino firms actively working on removing barriers to gender parity at senior levels.
Among the specific actions companies have been taking to improve or preserve gender balance are ensuring equal access to developmental work opportunities (at 36 percent), enabling flexible working hours, reviewing recruitment approaches, and providing mentoring and coaching (all three at 33 percent).
Creating an inclusive culture led from the top was also cited as an important push for gender diversity on the job.
When asked which aspects of diversity their businesses measure, survey respondents cited the percentage of female employees by management level and the average salary for key management levels by gender (both at 30 percent), followed by the average time in management levels by gender (26 percent).
Sense of inclusion
To promote a sense of inclusion, survey respondents said most senior leaders asked female talent what it’s like to work at the company and how it can improve (at 40 percent), as well as personally encouraging colleagues to speak up with ideas and issues, while enjoining those in senior management to be role models or champions for women (both at 39 percent).
According to the report, progress for the representation of women in senior leadership positions has stalled. Globally, women currently hold 29 percent of senior leadership positions — a level that’s unchanged from the previous year.
In the Philippines, initiatives to push policy changes are seen to have contributed to the relatively high position of women executives.
The country, one of the earliest signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), has a gender provision in its 1987 Constitution. As spelled out in Article II, Section 14, the state “recognizes the role of women in nation building and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.”
In 1995, the government launched the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development (PPGD) 1995-2025, a 30-year strategic Framework Plan for Women (FPW) adopted in 2001, that stresses women’s rights, economic empowerment and gender-responsive governance.
Additionally, the Magna Carta of Women — widely seen as the local equivalent of Cedaw — was enacted in 2009 to support laws that protect women’s rights and equal access to opportunities and resources.
But Españo believes that policies are not enough.
“To achieve meaningful progress, [policies] must be adhered to, enforced and regularly revisited to assess their effectiveness. (W)hen that is combined with real commitment from senior leadership, you begin creating a truly inclusive culture,” Españo said in another interview.
Francesca Lagerberg, global leader at Grant Thornton International, agrees. “Policies can set the parameter, context and direction… but they won’t achieve anything if the underlying culture hasn’t changed,” she told another paper. “How people are treated, the way leaders live and breathe and deliver on issues of gender diversity, are far more important than specific policies,” Lagerberg said.
As published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, dated 23 February 2020