When Karen Ruiz was starting her career in the construction industry, one of the few women in the trade, she felt that her male colleagues looked down on her.
“The industry was heavily male-dominated. I was working with engineers, architects, estimators, contractors, and construction workers every day, most of whom were men,” she told Yahoo Philippines. “Any fresh graduate would feel intimidated to be working with professionals for the first time. That was just natural. But for a female fresh graduate starting a career in a male-dominated industry? That was on another level.”
When asked what were the situations that made her feel indifferent in the workplace, she shared, “I always felt unheard every time I would raise concerns over a project that I knew were valid. But because it was I who raised it, they would not take it seriously – they would ask a male colleague to look it over, as though his judgment was better or more accurate than mine.”
What Ruiz shared are clear examples of biases that many women face in the workplace. Unfortunately, Ruiz’s case was not an isolated case – it happens to many women across the world.
On top of the daily responsibilities that they do at home, women are having some barriers when it comes to moving up the corporate ladder because of a lack of support for women’s personal and professional development. These barriers include lack of flexible work arrangements, unequal pay, lack of the same access to career-making roles as men, and vulnerability to sexual harassment by predatory male co-workers, among others.
Further, a LinkedIn report that surveyed women in Asia showed that mothers, specifically, are having difficulty balancing their roles as professionals and mothers. A 2021 study by Gallup also revealed an increased burnout among women and decreased burnout among men; women's burnout increased by four points to 34% in 2020 — the year when the COVID-19 pandemic began — and remained at that level in 2021.
A 2021 study by Gallup revealed an increased burnout among women and decreased burnout among men; women's burnout increased by four points to 34% in 2020 and remained at that level in 2021.
So, 22% of women surveyed by LinkedIn think they have fewer career advancement opportunities than men.
These are real issues and real problems that continue to exist today even as the world claims to be more progressive and more liberal than ever before.
“In today’s modern age, in what we consider a progressive time for different gender sectors, 30 percent is still considered the tipping point for women to affect decision-making processes,” said Regina Aguila, Vice President of People from the business process outsourcing company TaskUs. “This underrepresentation could be a result of the barriers that women face in the workplace. What employers need to do is to take more proactive steps in supporting the well-being and career development of their employees.”
While not a lot of employers worldwide have a proactive approach to addressing these situations in their respective workplaces, there have been a few trailblazers – like TaskUs, Microsoft, and Canva here in the Philippines, to name a few – who have long been active in championing their female employees’ career development, mental health and well-being, and active roles as women in the society.
A proactive, not just reactive, approach to supporting women
There are a few, if not yet many, employers who have been proactive in supporting their female employees. They understand that women are never asking for special attention and treatment; it is just that their specific conditions and needs, however, have been given little to no attention by society.
To support specifically their parent employees, TaskUs Philippines has long been providing 15 days additional paid maternity leaves on top of other government-mandated benefits. They also have their NextGen Scholarship Program, wherein high-performing employees can apply for a company-paid scholarship for their children or children under their legal care.
In terms of supporting their employees who want to further their career and educational growth, TaskUs introduced the Professional Development Reimbursement program last year that offers to reimburse costs of various professional development programs such as conferences, certifications, training, and more. The Tuition Reimbursement program, meanwhile, offers to reimburse a portion of costs incurred while furthering our teammate’s education towards Associate, Bachelor, Master, or Doctoral degree from accredited colleges, universities, or certificate programs. All these are projected to empower TaskUs’s female employees to further their education.
To address the common barriers that affect the wellness of Filipinas not only in the workplace but also at home, TaskUs’s dedicated Wellness & Resiliency team ensures that employees have the right tools and support to improve any feelings of stress, anxiety, or burnout. Their in-house life coaching program provides 24/7 access to a life coach or, in more serious cases, a psychologist or a psychiatrist for employees going through a hard time.
“We have made it our goal this year to improve the representation of women in our company, starting with recruitment,” said Aguila. “Through these programs, we hope our employees are empowered to rise through the ranks while fulfilling their personal goals.”
Guided by our value of empowering others, we make sure that women employees in Canva are provided equal opportunities to grow and thrive in their chosen fields... whether as women designers, marketers, engineers, or recruiters.Yani Hornilla-Donato, Canva Philippines
The graphic design platform Canva has also long been enacting policies that have their female employees at the center to recognize their unique needs. As with TaskUs, Canva also provides 120-day paid maternity leave for their female employees. Further, they provide free sanitary pads in their women's comfort rooms.
Their employees are also offered what they call "Flex Leaves" that allow them to take up to five days of paid leaves (which are on top of the regular vacation and sick leaves) for situations where they feel the need to support themselves, their families, or loved ones during a rather stressful day. Canva understands that their mothers at Canva wear many hats outside their careers.
Canva also created their in-house Parents and Carers Hub – another initiative that was developed to create a delightful, seamless experience for the diverse needs of families. This Hub includes handover templates for communication news and handing-over projects, advice from other parents and carers from other communities, and tips for new parents and carers, among others.
"Guided by our value of empowering others, we make sure that women employees in Canva are provided equal opportunities to grow and thrive in their chosen fields," said Yani Hornilla-Donato, Country Manager of Canva Philippines. "Whether as women designers, marketers, engineers, or recruiters, we empower women through one-on-one coaching and small-group practices."
The Philippine site of the global technology corporation Microsoft, meanwhile, says that they follow a three-pronged approach to promote Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) to their employees and customers: creating and continuously reinforcing that culture within their teams, collaborating with relevant non-government organizations to increase their knowledge on related social issues, and upskilling communities across the Philippines to increase people's awareness on pertinent affairs.
"Building a diverse and inclusive workplace requires everyone to play an active role," said Fides Ricasa, Microsoft Philippines's Global Partner Solutions Director and Country Executive for Diversity, Inclusion & Allyship. "We not only seek out and invite in different perspectives that represent various aspects of the world around us, but it is also our shared core priority to do so."
Microsoft Philippines is also actively training their leaders in understanding not just how to put D&I principles into practice but also to become more effective in training people and spearheading teams. They encourage their managers to make time in meeting members of their team to ensure that everybody feels heard and valued.
"D&I has always been a big part of how we run our business," said Ricasa. "To be able to see concrete outcomes for such thrust, we’ve established several programs and initiatives, which aim to address the well-being of diverse groups in the company — including, but not limited to, female employees."
We focus on talent and skills, and not on gender identity or sexual orientation, race, background, religion, or any other societal segmentation... We believe that the more diverse the workforce is, the better.Victoria Alcachupas, TaskUs
Both TaskUs and Microsoft also have Employee Resource Groups that ensure that every person from minority or underrepresented groups can have a collective voice to influence the organization’s policies in place. TaskUs, for instance, has the likes of Women@TaskUs for female employees and Unicorns@TaskUs for the LGBTQIA+ community, which serve as the voice for the groups they represent and provide counsel and recommendations in policy-making and benefits. Microsoft, meanwhile, has Women at Microsoft that places focus on ensuring that Microsoft is a workplace where all genders thrive equally.
Strengthening D&I also strengthens overall work culture
TaskUs believes that it is important that they remain their commitment to being part of the solution to the biases, barriers, and struggles that women continue to face in the workplace until today.
Victoria Alcachupas, TaskUs’s Division Vice President of Integrated Marketing, shared that they have a company-wide goal to have equal representation – 50:50 female-male ratio – in the Executive level this 2022, whether through new hires or internal promotions. Currently, 49% of their female leaders or those who are managers and above are women.
"Since the beginning, we have inculcated a culture of inclusivity and belongingness to our people. We focus on talent and skills, and not on gender identity or sexual orientation, race, background, religion, or any other societal segmentation," said Alcachupas. "We believe that the more diverse the workforce is, the better.”
Because of their relentless efforts especially in the areas of D&I and Wellness & Resiliency, TaskUs has consistently received awards and recognitions from different industry organizations such as the Glassdoor 2019 Best Places to Work and Comparably’s Best Company Culture, Best Company for Women, and Best Company for Diversity in 2021, among others. Seventy-eight percent of surveyed participants rated TaskUs 9 or 10 on a scale of 10 in the company's Employee Satisfaction Survey. TaskUs also has a 4.6 out of 5.0 rating on Glassdoor.
As a global team, Hornilla-Donato of Canva said that D&I remains at the front and center of everything Canva does as they believe that a well-represented organization translates to a better workplace, better culture, and ultimately better product. As of this year, 70% of the Canva Philippines team and 60% of their managers are women.
"We know that the gender gap in the workplace exists globally. While there have been improvements made over the years, we still have a long way to go," said Hornilla-Donato. "We aspire to create a company that promotes gender equality; to do our part, we take a proactive approach in creating an environment where women feel nurtured and empowered."
She added, "We believe that we are all responsible for creating a diverse and inclusive environment for everyone; recognizing the role women play in the workplace is a crucial step towards that."
From 2020 to 2021, Canva was awarded as one of the Philippines’s Best Workplaces; in 2021, they were recognized as the #1 Best Place to Work in Asia under the small-medium category. They have also placed second in Workbean’s Employer Brand Awards under the Most Attractive Employer of the Year category.
It is essential that every employee feels seen and valued and that their needs and expectations be met accordingly.Fides Ricasa, Microsoft Philippines
But if there is anything that employers need to understand when it comes to strengthening their D&I efforts, it is that D&I is more than just about diversity representation. It is not just hiring more people from minority or underrepresented groups and claiming to be a diverse and inclusive organization already.
For Ricasa of Microsoft, it should be about leveraging the power of the diversity of people, cultures, and ideas within the company.
"All the strategies and efforts to seek out and bring on people with diverse backgrounds will not matter if Microsoft employees do not feel valued for what they bring, or are not respected for who they are. Those with enriching perspectives will not engage or stay," said Ricasa. "As such, it is essential that every employee feels seen and valued and that their needs and expectations be met accordingly."
Juju Z. Baluyot is a Manila-based writer who writes in-depth special reports, news features, and opinion-editorial pieces for a wide range of publications. He covers cultures, media, gender, and the 2022 Philippine elections.
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