Promoting gender parity
The Manila Times
WE live in a society predisposed to bias. Psychologists speak the truth when they say that if there’s one thing certain about biases, it’s that everyone has them and that they occur unconsciously. From this viewpoint, having biases is not inherently negative and often produces no harmful effects. Think of having a preference for one clothing brand over another that’s equally popular. No harm done, right? Biases become harmful when people allow these to influence their behavior toward certain groups of individuals. Harmful biases and stereotypes often spur discrimination, which if not nipped in the bud can negatively affect relationships. In the workplace We spend a considerable part of our day at work. When negative factors like gender bias, discrimination and inequality tilt the work dynamic balance, productivity lessens, and employee welfare is adversely affected. During P&A Grant Thornton’s 2022 Growth in Relationships and Opportunities for Women Leadership event, we advocated and pushed to break the gender bias as the initial step toward promoting women empowerment. We realized that while attempting to prevent gender bias was a crucial initiative, there was a need for more intentional action from businesses, government, and other stakeholders to promote gender equality and support women. The harsh reality is that gender disparity exists and, as cited in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, it will take more than a century to finally close the gap. This was also reiterated in Grant Thornton’s 2023 Women in Business Report (WIB), which emphasized the need for more intentional moves adopted to help increase the number of women in senior leadership. As mentioned in our previous article, while shifts in work models due to the pandemic actually did a lot to narrow gender inequality, particularly in the Philippines where nearly half or 49 percent of senior management roles in the businesses surveyed were currently held by women, progress in pushing for gender parity remained slow, with the number of women in senior management roles up just half a percentage point since 2022. Avoiding pitfalls To more effectively push for gender equality, particularly in the workplace, it is pivotal to learn from experience. Like falling prey to forms of bias, it is relatively easy to slip through a rabbit hole and fail to help advocate for gender parity. All things considered, here are some common pitfalls to avoid in a bid to narrow the gender gap and heed global calls for gender parity. Improving flexible work practices This means adopting work practices that are beneficial for all, including male employees who have as much responsibility at home as parents and keepers of the household as women. When it comes to supporting women in the advancement of their careers, our WIB research also highlighted that office-based businesses have the lowest percentage of women in senior management. As previously cited in one of our articles, although flexible working is not without its challenges, organizations must always ensure they have a culture that supports and facilitates flexible working. This is to avoid the common pitfall of businesses sliding back into pre-pandemic habits. An intentional commitment to flexible working can help avoid this. Increase diversity It may sound easy but increasing diversity is much harder than it seems. The 2023 WIB also revealed that embracing diversity at the senior level and beyond would be the responsible thing to do and the right thing to do commercially as it is a proven driver of performance. The important step to take is to act knowingly: Businesses, particularly those calling for a “return to the workplace,” must consider the effect this will have on diversity, understanding that it may have unintended consequences on productivity. It also helps companies to be transparent and nurturing. Employee well-being and mentoring programs that support women into senior leadership are crucial but these need to be combined with greater transparency on pathways to those roles. We live in a society where all of us fall victim to harmful biases, a common pitfall that even innovation and shifts due to the pandemic have failed to curb. But while we will always have biases, harmful or not, we can go out of our way to avoid other pitfalls that prevent us from narrowing the gender gap. The trick is to learn from mistakes, avoid common pitfalls, and be ready to support policies that answer calls for gender parity. Mai Sigue-Bisnar is the partner for Audit and Assurance and Advisory Services at P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 24 partners and more than 1,000 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us at @GrantThorntonPH, like us on Facebook at P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to email@example.com. For more information, visit our website at www.grantthornton. com.ph.