PH ranks first in Asia for gender diversity in the workforce – report

Michelle Abad

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PH ranks first in Asia for gender diversity in the workforce – report
The Philippines has the most female industry leaders in Asia. But even at its best figure, women still do not make up more than a third of leadership roles across Asia.

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines ranked first overall in gender diversity in the workforce among 10 Asian countries, according to the 2019 Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia (GDBA) report by Hong Kong-based nonprofit organization Community Business.

The country emerged with the best diversity performance by averaging of 3 indicators: women representation in the total workforce; representation at the senior level; and the pay gap. (READ: Equality at work leads to business growth, innovation – report)

But overall, the Philippines still has a long way to go when it comes to having more women in leadership roles.

Representation and pay gap

When it comes to representation in the total workforce, women are reported to make up close to half of the workforce in most markets. The Philippines ranks 2nd in Asia after Malaysia.

In representation at senior level or positions of authority, the Philippines tops the list. But even at its best figure, women still do not make up more than a third of leadership roles across Asia.

The Philippines has the smallest pay gap between men and women at 10.2%. This means that for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 10.2% less. To compare, Japan’s pay gap is 26.8%.

However, the report estimated that women need to work up to an additional 98 days a year to earn as much as men do. (READ: Closing the gender gap in economic opportunities)

Tina Arcilla, head of Community Business’ Diversity and Inclusion in Asia Network (DIAN), said in a press forum on Monday, March 2, that there is a challenge for women “to be champions for themselves,” because of the idea that women are penalized for being “aggressive” in their leadership roles.

Women across industries, age

The 2019 GDBA found that women dominate finance and human resources, but are underrepresented in the fields of technology, transportation and logistics, and engineering. (INFOGRAPHIC: Where do women work?)

Arcilla said that there are different factors that account for the gender imbalance in certain fields.

“We can start with the whole argument of nurture. There are these statements in Filipino culture like ‘kababae mong tao (you’re a woman and yet…),’ which may help us understand why there are certain gender roles associated with professions,” she said.

“For the information technology [field], I think it’s interesting because technology is something that will shape our future, and women should be a part of it,” Arcilla added.

Female representation in senior levels also declines with age, the report found. There are more women than men in the workforce from ages 20 to 39. (READ: Changing policies can make aging workforce a ‘boon’ to economy – report)

‘Paving the way’ for younger generation

Marla Garin Alvarez, diversity and inclusion lead for Thomson Reuters, said in the forum that women of the older generation who have reached roles of authority should make steps to include more women.

“The previous generation [should pave] the way for the younger generation of women professionals so that they can get the proper training that they have, they can get the proper exposure and visibility, and leadership opportunities in particular,” said Alvarez.

“So if you get to a senior-enough level that you can call the shots, you’re able to make decisions, then do so,” she added.

Speaking from experience working in Asia Pacific, Alvarez said that this is being followed in multinational companies, but that local companies have yet to follow suit.

Is it possible to dream of a 0-pay gap? Resource person Diosa Labiste, a professor from the University of the Philippines Diliman journalism department, said that women should be involved in labor unions to help achieve a 0-pay gap. “How would you negotiate for better opportunities if you’re not organized?” she said.

What can men do? Arcilla said that in creating programs for gender equality, organizers need to make sure that they are not just for women but inclusive of men, too. “The conversation should be about how this benefits all, and it should be communicated as everyone’s fight.” –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.