Investors seek to create ‘more chances for women-led successes’

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By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter

Businesses, investors, and organizations continue to benefit from fostering workplace cultures that respect women and encourage women leaders, according to inclusive growth advocates.

“Employee wellness and retaining talent were big concerns during the pandemic. People got burnout, quit, or shifted jobs,” said Julia Andrea R. Abad, executive director of the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE), at a Nov. 9 webinar on gender lens investing held by the Manila Angel Investors Networks (MAIN). 

“Diversity and gender equality became a sign that, if companies cared about that, there’s an environment that makes people stay,” she added. 

Though the Philippines slipped two spots in the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, ranking 19th out of 146 countries compared to 17th out of 156 countries last year, it ranks second-highest in Asia and the Pacific after New Zealand. 

Its current score of 0.783, slightly lower than the 0.784 in 2021, is based on a 0 to 1 scale, where 1 represents optimal gender parity. 

In an environment of uncertainty, Ms. Abad said that increased diversity increases an organization’s innovation quotient and boosts employee morale. 

“Equality motivates employees to work effectively and efficiently, ultimately leading them to improve performance and talent retention,” she said.  

SHEDDING INHERENT BIASESMAIN, a private investors network in the Philippines, is pushing economic parity for women and men.

“A lot of the fund managers we have today are male and they see investments, opportunities, and startups from a male lens. There’s nothing totally wrong about it and it’s not on purpose, but it’s just how situations are these days,” said Tina Nepomuceno-Di Cicco, chairperson of MAIN’s gender lens investing committee, at the same event. 

Over the pandemic, people have become more aware of women-led startups and their potential as companies that will deliver economic returns, she added. 

Dr. Julia Newton-Howes, chief executive officer of Investing in Women (IW), an Australian government-funded program for inclusive growth across Southeast Asia, pointed out that shedding inherent biases requires guidance. 

“Like PBCWE and MAIN, our efforts go into incentivizing and providing technical assistance to executives and investors. In order to access capital from us, they need to develop a gender lens action plan with a technical expert to examine how they went about making deals and where there were inherent biases in their system,” she said. 

It’s not about achieving perfection and female dominance, however, because equality is not about one gender succeeding over another, reminded Ms. Newton-Howes. An all-female portfolio versus a male-dominated one will have, by and large, similar returns. 

“We don’t suddenly think women will give amazing returns that men could never. What’s important is there are more chances for women-led successes.”  

GENDER EQUALITY CHAMPIONSOrganized by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in the Philippines, We Empower Asia, and the European Union, the 2022 Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Awards on Oct. 20 named those who continue to help close the gender gap. 

“The WEPs are an excellent entry point for companies who want to make a commitment to workplace gender equality. The tools within the WEPs are accessible and widely used around the world to provide companies with important insights into workplace gender equality.” said Christine Clarke, Australian ambassador for women and girls. 

The 2022 WEPs Awards were supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). 

Here are the Philippines’ gender equality champions for 2022: 

Leadership Commitment   

Champion: Anna Marie Rojas-Lagon, Chief Executive Officer of BAYO Manila, Inc.
1st Runner-up: Steven T. Tan, President of SM Supermalls
2nd Runner-up: Ma. Rhodora “Ayhee” Campos, Country Head of Infosys BPM Philippines

Gender-Inclusive Workplace  

Champion: Microsoft
1st Runner-up: Standard Chartered Bank
2nd Runner-up: Concentrix

Gender-Responsive Marketplace  

Champion: DDB Group Philippines
1st Runner-up: Unilever Philippines
2nd Runner-up: First Philippine Holdings Corporation

Transparency and Reporting  

Champion: Fujitsu Global Delivery Center Philippines
1st Runner-up: Philippine National Bank
2nd Runner-up: Home Credit Consumer Finance Philippines

Community Engagement and Partnerships   

Champion: The Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd.
1st Runner-up: Unilever Philippines
2nd Runner-up: BAYO Manila, Inc.

Youth Leadership (Under 35)  

Champion: Dr. Sharon Vaswani, Chief Executive Officer of PanOpthalmics Enterprise
1st Runner-up: Emmanuele Marie C. Parra, Senior Content Specialist and Global Volunteer Network Lead of Thomson Reuters
2nd Runner-up: Stephanie Angelica S. Naval, Chief Executive Officer of Empath Corporation

Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Champions  

Champion: TeamAsia
Champion: Edukasyon.ph

Atty. Roel A. Refran, chief operating officer of the Philippine Stock Exchange, told everyone at the awarding ceremony that all enterprises, whether SMEs or publicly-listed companies (PLCs), can have room for inclusive policies and practices.  

“I hope this will inspire PLCs to be more active in advocating and adopting policies and practices that promote gender equality and women empowerment in the workplace, as well as in the communities they operate in,” he said.