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  • Writer's pictureAngel Martinez

How the workplace gaslights and gatekeeps their own girlbosses

Congratulations to us! According to the 2020 Global Gender Report of the World Economic Forum, we’re the top country in Asia in terms of closing the gender gap. As the 16th out of 153 countries around the world, the Philippines has made great strides in ensuring women have access to education, healthcare services, seats in the government, and representation in the workplace.

In fact, almost half of senior leadership positions in Filipino mid-market businesses are held by women! We dominate most high-paying positions in the service and sales industries, and have wages closer to our male counterparts compared to more advanced economies around the world.

If we look at it this way, it only makes sense to assume that our corporate workplaces are some of the most progressive the world has ever seen, right?

Well, unfortunately not. Underneath these promising statistics are women who still struggle to rise up the ranks, despite their excellent performance.

Why is this the case?

It’s common knowledge that the modern workplace paints traditionally female traits in a negative light. We’re inherently empathetic and emotionally aware, kind and nurturing. While these can be our greatest assets, they are viewed as “weaker” compared to powerful and dominant male leadership styles.

This bias makes us more hesitant to share our ideas in group discussions, put our foot down in making important decisions, or even own our achievements. As a result, we hold ourselves back from pursuing bigger and better roles.

Societal expectations, especially surrounding motherhood, are also a key factor. 1 in 6 Filipino women are still asked in job interviews about their plans to have children – and answering yes affects their chances of getting the position. This is because companies want people who can drop everything and work overtime or take on more responsibilities, when needed.

Women also have 105 days of maternity leave compared to the two weeks awarded to their husbands, which also implies that we shoulder more responsibility in childcare. Both mother and father should have a key role in rearing their kids, even with the presence of a job.

What are we to do?

Representation in the workplace is more than having a girlboss in a millennial pink power suit facilitate board meetings… but thankfully, this is a good place to start. ACTM has been known to mold and empower female leaders: just take a look at very own Office of the President! Having more women like them in top industry positions means our distinct and diverse experiences will be taken into consideration when forming company-wide rules and regulations.

To create a truly equal workplace, we have to start as early as we can. This responsibility, of course, doesn’t fall solely on us women; we’ll be needing involvement and commitment from men as well.

What can we do to champion gender equality today?

Admit that we have biases and misconceptions in the first place, no matter how progressive we think we are. Whether it’s tearing down fellow women who get ahead in extracurriculars or having men lead groupwork by default, we have to admit that certain gender roles we hold limit our capacity to grow.

Challenge sexism and speak up when a woman is being harmed. This seems most difficult, especially since men usually dismiss it as friendly banter. But putting one’s foot down and calling out those in the wrong—especially if the reprimand is coming from a fellow man—sends a powerful message that this behavior is no longer tolerated.

If we normalize these positive behaviors, we stand a better chance at bringing them along with us in the next stage of our lives and using them as a foundation to build better, safer societal structures for women in the country.


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