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Empowering the Working Filipina during the Pandemic

Studies have said that the pandemic has undone the gender equality progress of the past 10 years. How can we regain lost footing for the good of our female workforce?

As society marches towards embracing gender equality in all its facets, the pandemic is threatening to reverse whatever progress we’ve attained in recent years. With the virus outbreak still around, a study reveals that women are nearly twice as likely to lose their jobs compared to men.

As of May last year, the numbers tell us that women make up close to 40% of global employment, but account for more than 50% of job losses in total. Coincidentally, the challenges of unpaid care, which has only been amplified by the health crisis, fall immoderately on women.

On that note, stories about mothers leaving their corporate jobs to tend to their children also aren’t new. The discourse surrounding how we can better empower mommy-professionals have long been on the table. And while there are notable adjustments, there’s still a long way to go.

This back-pedaling isn’t only a strike against women and the advocacies we fight for, but for our economy as well.

Women and leadership

The Philippines has one of the highest percentages of female leadership in the ASEAN. To put into context: one source cites that, in the Southeast Asian Region, the average ratio of men to women in high-ranking positions is 54 to 100.

Except for the Philippines, the inclusion of women leadership positions is generally low throughout the region.

It bears mentioning that we outperform our neighboring nations when it comes to gender equality in the workplace. In fact, another study reveals that the Philippines tops a list of 32 countries with the highest number of women leaders in management.

Ironically, we also have one of the lowest female participation in the workforce.

That established, how do we inspire women to more actively engage in corporate and creative circles, considering how new work arrangements are taking shape today?

The economic impact of the working mom’s coronavirus-initiated problems is pegged at $341 billion. Not only are women losing their jobs faster than men, but mommy professionals are finding it hard to balance parenthood and their careers, too, as the lines are now easily blurred at home.

Furthermore, multiple studies note that single moms are among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

All these mentioned, it is worrisome how the female labor force involvement rate has crashed to less than 50% in April 2020 — the first time the digits have been this low since 1986.

With inadequate childcare support from the government and increased responsibility for parents to be more openly part of their children’s education, working mothers are often left with no choice; oftentimes leading to heightened stress levels and decreased work efficiency.

That said, employers must consider these factors when selecting female candidates for employment. What’s more, the battle to combat predisposed biases about women should be an ongoing fight for all of us to champion.

Conversations — not immediate solutions — are key to lasting change

There are no immediate solutions to problems as complex as motherhood and their stance in the workplace.

As the world has had to shift to the digital space almost entirely with little to no warning, it is imperative that we strive toward inclusion and empathy every step of the way to ensure a collective approach to societal progression.

We should learn to embrace benefits and work structures that are tailor-fit to support moms, women, and guardians in general. From increasing informal communication touchpoints to shortening work hours and fostering healthy communities, employers must make the effort to listen to the people who help make the company.

With the apparent lack of support from the government, private entities are more obligated to fill the gaps.

Nonetheless, it is equally crucial to ask more questions as it is to propose solutions.

What is the biggest challenge concerning women in the professional setting? How safe do women feel in the office? How are working moms encouraged to be their most talented selves, all while helping them keep grounded in family relationships?

What other perks are companies yet to explore in the name of building healthy parents? How are hiring guidelines adjusted to accommodate skillful single moms? How else can we diversify parental leaves? What else can we do to curate a workplace that cultivates both competence and inclusion?

Furthermore, horrific tales of sexual misconduct continue to abound in mainstream conversations. As not every guideline on harassment is perfectly implemented at all times, what other safety precautions can we follow to further prevent chilling male machismo practices in the workplace?

Empowerment is a process

As we have so much more to unlearn and acquire, we must keep discourse alive. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to the emancipation from misogynistic practices. Women empowerment is not a product we sell, but a culture we continue to break our way into.

The female workforce is undoubtedly very important, and it is ever-growing. And like every living thing, evolution is a science that we cannot escape. Only this time, it is critical that we keep bringing to light women’s issues and plights to help shape how progress takes form.

In the relevant words of Michelle Williams: "Imagine a world where women succeed because of their work environment and not in spite of it".

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