The field test trial of the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Institute of Civil Engineering team's Column Footing Grade Beam Monolith.

THE PHILIPPINES had the widest employment gap in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce in the Asia-Pacific region, according to professional networking platform LinkedIn.

The Southeast Asian nation had a gender employment gap of 22% in STEM, the social media site said in a statement, citing its own data used earlier in a World Economic Forum report on gender equality.

In the Philippines, women accounted for 58.8% of the workforce in non-STEM fields but only 36.3% in the STEM workforce, it said. Gender gaps in STEM employment in the Asia-Pacific region were also seen in Australia (21%), Singapore (15%) and India, with the smallest gap at 5%.

“As STEM roles are among the fastest growing and most in demand, professionals will likely be more resilient to economic pressures,” LinkedIn said. “With the increasing importance of STEM to the global economy, it is imperative to take steps toward leveling the playing field for women to ensure they will benefit from industry advancements.”

The social media site said women in STEM all over the world are graduating but not staying in the field. While they graduate with STEM degrees, fewer are entering the STEM workforce.

The sharpest drop in female representation (7 points) happens between graduation and entering the STEM workforce, which only decreases as they start climbing the leadership ladder.

LinkedIn noted that in the Philippines, four of 10 STEM graduates (41%) in 2017 were women, but only slightly more than 3 of 10 (36.6%) were in the STEM workforce a year later.

“The drop in representation between graduation and joining the workforce has been stable at around 11% from the 2017 graduating batch, but it spiked to 14% in 2021,” it added.

Linked In also said the lack of female role models in the field contributes to the drop-off of women working in the STEM industry.

LinkedIn data showed that in countries where the decline in female representation from graduation to joining the STEM workforce was less significant, the disparity between men and women in STEM jobs tended to be minor.

The average drop-off in female representation between graduation and entering the STEM workforce in Singapore (8%), India (4%) and Italy (10%) were smaller, which resulted in negligible gender gaps in STEM jobs at 15%, 5%, and 12% respectively.

Countries like the Philippines (14%), Australia (17%) and the US (20%) showed higher dips in female representation after graduation, resulting in wider gender gaps in STEM employment at 22%, 21% and 22%, respectively, LinkedIn said.

The Global Gender Gap report and LinkedIn’s data showed that systemic change is needed to make workplaces more fair and equal to future-proof women’s careers and be more resilient to labor market uncertainty.

“While action is already being taken to close the gender gap, we need to go further and faster to level the playing field,” Atul Harkisanka, LinkedIn head of Emerging Markets and country manager for the Philippines, said in the statement.

“Enabling more women to enter and advance in rapidly growing sectors such as STEM will help make them more resilient to external economic shocks,” she added.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2023 that showed women made up 29% of the global STEM workforce, with eight in 10 leadership roles being filled by men.

The country placed 16th out of 146 countries in the report that measured gender parity in economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.

Last week, International Labour Organization Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo said the Philippine government should ensure that men and women should be afforded equal pay and employment opportunities.

“Eliminating gender-related bias will be essential for the human-centered, just and sustainable future of work that we are talking of,” he said in his speech at the National Conference of Employers in the Philippines on June 29.

“This means promoting inclusive policies and practices, and providing equal access to education, training and job opportunities.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez