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MANILA - The number of women holding senior leadership positions in mid-market business in the Philippines has hit 48% despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting economies around the world, according to Grant Thornton's annual Women in Business report.

Data for the Women in Business report is taken from Grant Thornton's International Business Report (IBR) - a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. Launched in 1992, the IBR now provides insight into the views and expectations of around 10,000 businesses across 29 economies.

Questionnaires are translated into local languages and fieldwork is undertaken on a biannual basis, through both online and telephone interviews. The date for this release is from interviews conducted from October to December 2020 with chief executive officers, managing directors, chairperson or other senior executives from all industry sectors. In the Philippines, 100 mid-market businesses were surveyed.

On the data featured in the Women in Business report, Marivic Espano, Chairperson and CEO at P&A Grant Thornton says: "Ranking first globally in terms of women in senior roles in the Philippines is an important milestone for business in the country, but not the end goal. Those businesses that want to reap the benefits of a better gender balance, must continue to take action to enable women to realize their ambitions."

Seeing the proportion of women leaders rise to 48% means that the Philippines continues to do well, given that the figure continuously increased in the previous two years (2019 and 2020). It also passes the important 30% threshold, which research shows is the minimum representation needed to change decision-making processes. All countries surveyed except for China (29%), United Arab Emirates (26%), South Korea (18%) and Japan (15%), and have now surpassed the crucial 30 percent milestone.

Another encouraging finding is the types of leadership roles women are occupying. Grant Thornton's research reveals higher numbers of women across operational C-suite roles in the Philippines compared to last year, with the proportion of female CEOs up 16 percentage points to 38% and female COOs up four percentage points to 27%. On the other hand, this year the proportion of female CFOs went down three percentage points to 35%. The proportion of women in the more traditional senior HR roles was also up at 48% (+12 percentage points in 2021), with the trend consistently fluctuating upwards and downwards since 2019.

Additionally, less than half (42%) of respondents agree that in their organizations, new working practices as a result of COVID-19 will benefit women's career trajectories long-term, despite potentially hindering factors which may be down to the flexibility that remote working offers.

While the number of women in leadership roles has grown, questions remain over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, particularly working mothers. UN data, shows that, before the pandemic, women did three times as much as unpaid housework as men, and mounting evidence indicates that COVID-19 is the only increasing disparity - as well as adding the extra responsibilities of childcare and home schooling while schools are closed.

Marivic Espano says: "Becoming the number one ranking country in terms of the proportion of women in senior management certainly does represent progress - having grown from 39% five years ago when we first started tracking this - but these gains can easily be lost. Reassuringly, 92% of businesses globally say they are taking action to ensure the engagement and inclusion of their employees against the negative backdrop of the pandemic and with the normalization of remote working, employers are becoming ever more flexible about how, where and when employees do their jobs."


As published in Mindanao Times, dated 23 February 2021