According to the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum in 2021, the Philippines managed to have closed at least 79.5 percent of economic participation and opportunity gaps. However, the same report said that there is still work to be done in terms of income and wage gaps, and women's participation in the job market. And so, while there is growing consciousness and progress in equality, it is not without persisting societal and cultural challenges.
This is what Procter and Gamble (P&G) Philippines aspires to continually champion and advocate for - a world free from gender bias, with equal voice, opportunity, and representation for all individuals. The company launched its "We See Equal" campaign to provide equal access for development of both male and female employees through their policies, programs and practices. Because of this, P&G was recognized in the 2021 UNWEP Awards where P&G was awarded Champion for the Gender Inclusive Workplace category. Today, the organization has a gender ratio balance of 53% female and 47% male. This is true even at their senior management levels where it is 54% female, 46% male.
Some of these P&G female leaders who are part of their senior management get candid and share their stories on how they were able to go beyond the boundaries of gender bias and stereotypes, and champion equality and inclusion in P&G and beyond:
Women challenging the norms
For Atty. Mimi Lopez-Malvar, P&G's Government Relations Director and Country Legal Head, it was not uncommon for her to attend external and industry meetings where she was the only woman present or just among the few.
"At first, this was very daunting. But over the years, I am happy to have progressed in my career with my own brand of dynamic diplomacy and the right mix of patience and perseverance to see things through," she shared.
Typically perceived as a male-dominated field, successful lawyers are usually expected to demonstrate stereotypically masculine qualities like competitiveness and assertiveness. Despite this perception, Atty. Mimi never felt she had to change who she was to progress in her career in P&G and to succeed externally in the industry.
"Observing equality and inclusion in the workplace allows us to leverage on the power of difference, unique insights, and perspectives, which go a long way towards growing, innovating, and building the business, which then also helps the larger society," she added.
Now, going into meetings, hearings, or any engagements, she feels confident and proud of her uniqueness and the opportunity she gets to provide a different perspective in important discussions.
The same rings true for Seema Menon, a single mother to an 11-year-old daughter and also the Plant Manager of P&G's Cabuyao Plant in Laguna. "When I became Baddi Plant Manager, I recall one person telling me 'Seema, you are going to have a tough time! You are too approachable for a Plant Manager!' I had experienced enough to know that my full potential comes out when I am my unique self versus trying to be like someone else. I told the person 'We'll see!'," she said.
Seema went beyond the negative bias towards being approachable into her unique strength as the first female Manufacturing Plant Leader in the P&G India, Middle East and Africa region before becoming the Philippines Plant Leader in the Philippines today. She thanks P&G for allowing her to bring forward her strengths, views and merits, and not changing her to fit into a prototypical "plant manager" or someone with a stereotypical tough façade often portrayed in manufacturing settings.
Globally, manufacturing has traditionally been seen as a "man's job" and workplaces have often been unconsciously biased towards men. At P&G, they make conscious workplace choices such as designing tasks to be equally accessible to both men and women. They give equal access to physical manufacturing work opportunities via automation solutions such as machines and tools. This removes the previous male physicality bias of the task so both genders can operate and perform tasks such as cargo lifting.
When further probed on her most significant enabler, she cites company policies and practices: "It is the support P&G has provided at every life stage – whether it was roles in different locations or the flexibility at work which helped me successfully return to work while taking care of a young child."
Women breaking stereotypes
Jan Ang, P&G Senior Director for Beauty Care and Media Operations shared how she courageously embraced her truth to chart her own path. Growing up in a traditional Filipino-Chinese household and environment with more patriarchal values, Jan was proud to go beyond the boundaries and break the stereotype.
She admits that while she is not perfect in her journey, she gained the strength to stand up for herself and make her own decisions in her life and career. Now she leads many of the biggest brands and media operations of one of the biggest advertisers and consumer goods company in the country.
"Sometimes, we expect males to lead us, as our fathers did. But these concepts are oftentimes a product of our own minds when we were growing up and our own fears. And the fear is what usually eats us up and casts doubt on our confidence," said Ang.
Meanwhile, Vidya Srinivasan, Vice President for P&G's Manila Global Business Services and Global External Reporting also struggled because of biases and stereotypes. "When I first moved to the US, about 23 years ago, I was the only Indian or Asian woman with an accent in that team. Even 10 years ago, I was the only woman in the organization's leadership team. In my family, I was also called the 'black sheep' since I left India and my brother stayed," she recalls.
But to Vidya, she was clear on her goals and turned these perceptions and biases into advantages. It helped that P&G supported her growth through its deliberate practice of equality and inclusion daily in the workplace. For her, it was important that leaders walk the talk, lead by example, and take the necessary actions to understand, support, and credential needs of women and celebrate their contributions. Now, it is Vidya's turn to enable more women as she leads a diverse organization of 1,500 people in Manila who support P&G operations globally.
Women are changemakers
P&G's global brand operations also means unlocking diverse consumer insights and needs. These meaningful experiences with consumers around the world serve as inspiration for Kristine Tang, Vice President for P&G Marketing, to create impactful, memorable and award-winning campaigns throughout her international career. At the helm of P&G's biggest brands and marketing team, she is cognizant of the critical and influential role of brand advertising and communications in raising awareness around bias and sparking dialogue for positive change.
"I am very proud of the work I did before in Japan for the Joy brand business. During our dish care consumer research, many Japanese wives shared thoughts like 'I wish my husband does more of the housework', or 'I also go to work, why don't they do half of the housework' as women there are under so much pressure of managing housework on their own while also working outside. How to share the load on housework was a sensitive topic and a little bit difficult to discuss in homes, but this was an important topic for a wife and husband. If housework became more than just the wives' responsibility or job, then husbands and wives can live happier," said Tang recalling the biases and insights behind one of her Japan campaigns translated into "Sharing is Caring! Make housework sharing go from JOB to JOY".
P&G's message to share the household load has gone beyond marketing campaigns that raise awareness and challenge biases. In 2021, they launched a company policy called "Share the Care" which offers at least eight weeks of fully paid parental leave, offering all kinds of P&G parents equal opportunity to care for and bond with biological or adopted children new to their family. New dads can share and support in caregiving duties beyond the standard seven days mandated by Philippine law. Meanwhile, birth or adoptive mothers continue to receive the 105 calendar days of fully paid maternity leave. Lawmakers and government commissions lauded the policy as progressive, contributing to improving the societal goals of redistributing unpaid domestic care and work.
P&G's Equality and Inclusion leader, Evelyn Chua-Ng, who is also the Vice President and Regional Comptroller for Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Africa attributes her own personal experience of succeeding in leadership roles, and as a wife and mother of four to having a strong family support system and the company's reinforcement of inclusion. "It has been a privilege to be working in a company where senior leaders and male allies truly live and breathe an inclusive culture. I never felt I was not listened to because of my gender. It is time that we break the bias. I look forward to the time when we stop using terms like 'working mom', in the same way that no one uses terms like 'working dad'," she shares.
"As an Equality and Inclusion Sponsor and Leader, my vision is to drive and maintain a strong culture of inclusion in P&G Philippines, where everybody can bring their full selves to work every day. Our efforts are expansive and covers various areas of diversity, such as gender, LGBTQ+ and style. We also ensure that our benefits and policies support inclusion. Eliminating unnecessary bias enables equal opportunities for anyone to succeed based on merit," she concludes.
To know more about P&G's female leaders, stay tuned as P&G releases stories weekly in their LinkedIn page and P&G Careers Facebook page. They launched the "Women Beyond Boundaries" series in celebration of the International Women's month and P&G's Equality and Inclusion month and to inspire future leaders.
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