MANILA, Philippines – “Looking for applicants 21-26 years old, female, with pleasing personality.”
It’s a line still commonly found in job advertisements. And while it seems innocent, it reinforces stereotypes about women that rights advocates have been trying to demolish to begin with, said Senator Pia Cayetano.
The senator told an audience at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City on Saturday, March 29, that the ads reinforce gender bias. “Have you ever heard anyone telling a man to have a pleasing personality?” she asked.
The senator joined other sectoral leaders at the “Work it! A Forum on Gender and Job (In)Security,” a forum hosted by Rappler, together with Pantene, to close the celebration of March as Women’s Month.
The forum aimed to discuss issues that hinder women’s professional advancement and status in the workplace, as well as highlight good practices that allow women to rise above oppressive situations.
Cayetano noted: “In the papers you can read ‘only apply if you’re 21-26.’ These are things we need to change.”
Age is made a limiting factor as well. Salve Basiano of the Confederation of Older Persons’ Associations of the Philippines (COPAP) said there are very few job opportunities for women who are 50 years old and above.
Cayetano said the expanded Senior Citizens’ Act of 2010 should open up new career opportunities for older women.
Based on data from job employment portal Jobstreet.com, women in the Philippines dominate 14 industries, outnumbering the men in tourism, beauty/fitness, health care, and human resources management. They also dominate in industries not immediately considered the domain of the female: agriculture, real estate, and banking or financial services, among others.
But despite being well represented in several key industries, women still face not-so-obvious forms of discrimination.
Opportunities not reaching women
Beth Angsioco, head of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) said women make up a large part of the work force, but many are forced to work in the informal sector or choose to be self-employed because of the lack of opportunities elsewhere.
The idea that women should be confined to taking care of the children and doing domestic chores is still pervasive.
Luvy Villanueva, former project manager of the Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women under the Philippine Commission of Women (PCW), said the Magna Carta of Women contain provisions mandating equal opportunities for women.
The problem, she said, is that despite the many policies and government programs, these do not reach the women who need them.
The panelists said another factor that plays into this inequality is the insecurity that women feel. While they work on their careers, women are also expected to remain committed carers for their families – a responsibility that can be too much of a pressure for some.
Raise gender-sensitive children
Osang Palma of the Malayang Tinig ng Kababaihan (Matinik) said 3 major factors influence one’s views of gender: the church, education, and family.
She said the belief that women are valuable only if they are married and with family remains prevalent: “Society is limiting the idea of what a woman could be,” Palma said. “That’s why women think that they lose their value if they do not have a husband.”
With women themselves purposely limiting their opportunities for advancement to conform with society’s standards, Cayetano said it’s time these stereotypes are challenged and addressed. It starts, she said, by raising gender-sensitive children.
“What example are we, as women, showing our children?” she asked. “Women don’t hold themselves in high regard. We should not be embarrassed to assert that [need for change].”
Angsioco said it’s going to be difficult overturning these oppressive ideas, despite many efforts to change the way people think about women’s roles in society. “The task before us is to continue breaking the boxes that limit us,” Angsioco said.
Watch the Forum on jobs and women’s identity: