Statistically speaking, women make up more than half of the world’s population and arguably, may have the best ideas in the workplace. If not, at least half of the best ideas, then.
Some of these ideas, however, many never see the light of day because work has become a challenge, especially for married women. The challenge to achieve a work-life balance has been the primary reason why some working mothers leave the corporate world.
At SGV, the Philippine member firm of Ernst & Young (EY), where I work, I appreciate the diverse and inclusive environment where our people can grow and thrive regardless of gender. Half of SGV partners are women, and this proportion is also mirrored throughout the firm, from overall headcount to top management. I want to share my own experiences about how SGV helped me get through the challenges of being a working mother in the workplace.
AN ALTERNATIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT
My first pregnancy was very delicate and I was advised to take a break and rest. However, I still wished to continue working despite my situation. Fortunately, my immediate superiors were very understanding of my case and together we came up with alternative ways for me to complete my tasks.
The advances in technology facilitated the situation and allowed me to fulfill my responsibilities. All I needed were basic tools like a laptop, a telephone and access to a stable Internet connection. I also had the option to utilize social media and other digital platforms to communicate, such as using Skype for business to conduct online meetings with my team or to use e-mail for sending important documentation and other communications.
These tools are very helpful to working mothers, especially in emergency cases like when a child is very sick and needs to be brought to the doctor. One can still deliver work requirements without having to be physically in the office. This alternative helps lighten the worries of a working mother and lets her balance her time more effectively.
As a first-time mother, I strove to provide the best for my child and promoted exclusive breast-feeding. After my maternity leave, exclusive breast-feeding required me to express milk every 2-3 hours during work. The firm has an accessible clinic with a comfortable private area where I could do that, with a refrigerator where I can store the output during the day. My superiors also allowed me to spare 10-15 minutes during office hours to express milk. These available facilities in our office greatly helped me get through my breast-feeding journey.
MATERNITY LEAVE/SOLO PARENT’S PRIVILEGES
Republic Act No. 1161, as amended, states that a covered female employee who has paid at least three monthly maternity contributions in the 12-month period preceding the semester of her childbirth, abortion or miscarriage and who is currently employed shall be paid a daily maternity benefit equivalent to 100% of her present basic salary, allowances and other benefits or the cash equivalent of such benefits for 60 days if all the required conditions are met.
In addition, Republic Act No. 8972 or the Solo Parent’s Welfare Act provides for benefits and privileges to solo parents and their children. It aims to develop a comprehensive package of social development and welfare services for solo parents and their children to be carried out by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and various government agencies.
The abovementioned benefits provided by the government also help working mothers and solo parents juggle their family obligations and their work. As a working mother, it is also a great boon to have an employer who can and is willing to assist with official arrangements or requirements, such as notifying and filing claims with the Social Security System.
IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORTING MOTHERS IN THE WORKPLACE
I believe that an organization that supports mothers in the workplace will truly help them unlock their potential, which could engender lasting loyalty and a willingness to stay at work despite the many challenges of trying to balance family life and career.
ACTIVITIES AND RECOGNITION
EY, being a global firm, places a high priority on empowering female leaders and promoting the advancement of women in the workplace. Given this, I hope to one day see the firm organize more events, not only to recognize working mothers, but all working women as well. Such a possible event could be tailored to support and empower the “next gen” of female leaders within various organizations, and provide an opportunity for teams to foster new relationships and develop networking skills. It may even be possible to coordinate with clients to arrange joint employer and client events to support “next gen” female leaders. These may offer excellent opportunities to boost the confidence of female workers and encourage them to achieve more in the workplace.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL
As a meritocracy, SGV has always given equal importance to all employees, regardless of gender. Women, men and LGBT are given the same opportunities in terms of promotions, salary increases and mobility experiences.
Research has shown that, given equal opportunities, women have a high potential to reach senior management positions. An article from Philippine Institute for Development Studies in November 2017 found that, based on a survey of businesses across different countries, the Philippines ranked as the highest in the proportion of senior management team roles held by women (40%).
In some ways, SGV has also been a trailblazer in this aspect, being one of the earliest Philippine companies to have a female partner (in 1961), and to elect a female chairperson and managing partner (in 1992). In my opinion, having such a parity-based culture embedded in a company’s psyche can significantly boost the morale of women employees.
The firm also let me experience leading projects under our quality and enablement department. These projects helped me broaden my network by having closer interactions with our pool of partners and managers. These also helped me gain a high level of self-achievement, especially when projects were rolled out and successfully concluded. In a sense, this deep exposure to project management also helped me strike a balance between work and family life.
CALL TO ACTION
Companies need to understand the concerns that women face in the workplace. These usually consist of family-related benefits and the challenges of being the primary providers of childcare. Understanding each concern may help guide the design of policies that will assist women, particularly working mothers.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations is #PressforProgress, which is certainly timely given that more and companies need to press forward for positive change for women, and boldly face the challenge of achieving true and inclusive gender equality in the workplace.
This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.
Diorella M. Ontimare-Dela Cruz is a Senior Director of SGV & Co.