Success in the workplace is measured in different ways, from climbing up the corporate ladder to gaining respect with the people you work with regardless of gender. Today, the corporate world is seeing a great number of female leaders, and this is just the beginning. However, while the world is progressing, it is hard to not notice that the workforce is still lacking in some aspects in terms of achieving gender equality.

For instance, women still experience gender-specific issues in the workforce that can possibly hinder the advancement of their career, thus, women are leaving in record numbers. In positions of leadership, women are already notably underrepresented due to the broken rung at work management, fewer women have been moving up the ranks for the past years and companies are currently having trouble keeping their female leaders, according to global management and consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

Women have been seen to be further seeking leadership positions, but they frequently encounter more obstacles, like microaggression, making it difficult for them to progress. But recently, women leadership is becoming more crucial within organizations that places a high value on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

According to McKinsey’s Workplace 2022 Report, women, particularly women of color, continue to be underrepresented in the corporate workplace despite small advances in representation over the years. Even so, companies are struggling to achieve gender equality in their workplaces.

For example, the “broken rung” is still intact, holding women back in advancing to their respective careers. The survey in the report showed that men outnumbered women in promotion to management positions, and there are not enough women that can be promoted to senior leadership positions.

Also, more women are quitting their jobs for better opportunities, which becomes a problem for most companies. The rate of women quitting their jobs is found to be higher than the rate of male leaders.

Among Philippine workforces, enterprises

With one of the highest levels of gender equality, and ranked 17th place in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report in 2021, the Philippines takes pride in observing gender equality across industries. As a country where small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are booming, more female-led companies are thriving. Thus, women play a vital role in this sector.

The Australian Government initiative Investing In Women (IW) stated that almost 60% of SMEs are run by women, creating a dynamic environment for gender equity.

“Women in the Philippines are making astounding progress as business leaders and entrepreneurs; we are known to have significantly closed the gender gap in areas such as health and education,” Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN)’s Founding Chairperson and President Ma. Aurora D. Geotina-Garcia was quoted as saying in a statement.

However, McKinsey’s and World Bank’s findings showed that the country is still lacking in some aspects — from investing in female-led companies to low labor participation of women in the workforce. Since 2019, the female labor participation is found to have remained low, with an average of 49%; and there has not been much progress in bridging this divide since then, which affects economic growth and prosperity in the Philippines.

In World Bank’s recent report titled Overcoming the Barriers to Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Philippines, findings showed that skills, wage gap, homecare responsibilities, and norms are among the factors that cause barriers on women’s labor market in the country. In addition, female-led businesses encounter difficulties towards accessing capital and networks due to cultural barriers and the occurring gender gaps and stereotypes.

According to the United Nations (UN), in order to address these gender-specific issues, commitment to laws, policies, institutions, and budgets are crucial to boost gender equality in the workforce and achieve social inclusivity.

McKinsey recommends that companies should think about focusing on promoting women leadership positions and keeping the women leaders that have such if they want to make a long-term and sustainable progress of gender equality in the workplaces.

For instance, more practical training to support their teams, and providing flexibility and health benefits to women that will help boost productivity. Following these examples can be advantageous for companies and will help them achieve better results.

Moreover, to solve the broken ladder in the workplace, most companies need to take actions, such as knowing the cause of disparity in promotions among women. They must ensure as well that both men and women are promoted at similar rates and that any forms of bias are eliminated during evaluations.

The World Bank, meanwhile, noted the need for policies and programs that will help increase female labor participation in the Philippines. Among other things, the World Bank stressed promoting policies that will help support flexible work arrangements, addressing gendered social norms limiting women’s access to the labor market, and providing alternatives to in-home childcare.

The multilateral lender added that by increasing women’s labor force participation rate by 0.5% annually, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is expected to rise at 6% by 2040 and 10% by 2050.

Initiatives thriving

Nonetheless, the Philippines is seen to be moving forward to become a more enabling environment, especially for female entrepreneurs.

IW, for instance, seeks for female-led businesses and mentors them to make their business stronger and address gender-specific concerns. The network has also helped to fund and invest in female-led companies in the Philippines to boost social impact and economic growth.

Many programs elsewhere were also implemented to support female-led companies.

According to Ms. Garcia, institutions such as the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) has established a program called Inclusive Lending for Aspiring Women (ILAW), which made funding requirements to be easily accessed and make the process simpler among micro and small businesses.

“There are also other programs that support female entrepreneurs ranging from training, learning sessions, mentoring programs, and workshops. Social media plays a major role in promoting these programs as the main media channel that the majority of women-led MSMEs can access,” Ms. Garcia said.

Moving forward, the significant force for change and success in both workplaces and businesses is leadership commitment.

“Leaders should proactively promote workplace gender equality through proactive and responsive policies and programs within and outside the organization to accelerate business sustainability, efficiency and innovation,” Ms. Garcia said. — Angela Kiara S. Brillantes