Women represent half the world’s population and half of its potential to grow, create opportunities and to overcome poverty.
Over the last few decades, research has repeatedly shown that supporting women and unlocking their entrepreneurial potential is crucial to building a resilient and healthy society.
Studies show that when women work, they invest 90% of their income back into their families, compared to just 35% for men.
In the Philippines, we have also seen women play a huge role in community building and responding to the global pandemic over the past year. In 2020, 58% of groups on Facebook were created by women. They were also very active in supporting various communities and rallying resources when COVID-19 hit the country with women comprising 54% of the membership of COVID-19 support groups.
Women also accounted for the 62% of the total amount fundraised on Facebook within the country last year.
When supported, women create impact within their families and the wider community. Businesses and governments can also spur economic progress, expand markets, and improve health and education outcomes for everyone by focusing on girls and women.
This is why Facebook created #SheMeansBusiness in 2016–a long term commitment to support women’s economic empowerment by providing digital skills training and avenues to deepen and expand their business connections and networks.
The program has helped train over 20,000 Filipina entrepreneurs on digital marketing, business resiliency, and financial literacy. As it marks its fifth year, all the hard-won victories of the last few years could easily be erased by the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic.
This is also why the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day–Choose to Challenge–is particularly relevant.
INEQUALITY AMID THE PANDEMIC
The theme invites us to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women all over the world–research shows they are more likely to be shouldering the responsibility to care for family members, more likely to lose their jobs or have their pay cut, and more likely to feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious.
We partnered with several institutions to study gender equality at home and work during COVID-19 with inputs from the World Bank Group, UN Women, Ladysmith Collective, and EqualMeasures2030. More than 460,000 people on Facebook in over 200 countries completed the survey–giving us a unique snapshot of women and men’s access to resources, their time spent on unpaid care work, and their attitudes about equality.
Some findings give us reason to worry: Women consistently reported earning less than men and being dependent on someone else financially. A quarter of women expressed concerns about the future of their jobs. Due to the pandemic, they also spent more time on unpaid care and domestic work.
Our Future of Business study with the World Bank and the OECD further confirmed this. It showed that women-owned small to medium enterprises (SMEs) were more likely to report that they were closed due to COVID-19 regardless of size of business, sector, and geography.
The study also confirmed that women disproportionately bear the burden of domestic responsibilities. In East Asia and the Pacific, 20% of all women business leaders said that they spent six hours or more per day on domestic responsibilities, compared to only 12% of men.
HARNESSING THE POWER OF DIGITAL LITERACY
There is also the issue of Internet access. Nearly 52% of women around the world are still not using the internet. This is unfortunate given that women appear to leverage digital education to a greater effect than men. One study showed that when men and women have the same level of digital fluency, women managed to achieve a higher level of education.
In the studies we conducted, we found that women business leaders also showed a greater degree of flexibility in their business models in response to COVID-19. In fact, female business leaders were more likely to make more than 50% of their sales through digital channels.
With improving digital literacy comes hope and shifting attitudes. Majority of the people surveyed–including men–agreed that all genders should have equal opportunities in education, employment and household decision-making.
In the Philippines, digital fluency and connectivity has proven to smash barriers and enable women to continue pursuing careers or start businesses. Recent findings shared by the Employees Confederation of the Philippines in a recent webinar found that the work home set-up due to the pandemic, where digital tools played a crucial role, enabled women to integrate work and family life and gain more control of both aspects.
It is obvious that inclusive economic empowerment which provides investment in digital literacy programs and improves connectivity for women can unlock their potential for generations to come.
If we are to realize this collective hope and turn it into reality, we have to work together to ensure access to digital skills education as a foundational building block. This is why we will continue to invest deeply in tools and training that provide women with a world of opportunities to connect, learn and grow.
About the Writer:
Beth Ann Lim, director for APAC Policy Programs and Government Outreach, Facebook
Prior to this role, she worked for Facebook as Head of SMB Community Engagement, APAC. She has over 15 years of experience in Asia helping companies small and large develop strategic communication, branding and marketing initiatives. A passionate professional in communications and storytelling, she has held senior management leadership roles at Intel and a global PR agency based in Hong Kong, Beijing, and London. She has successfully built and managed public relations, corporate reputation and influencer programs across a variety of industries including technology, media, education and entertainment
Beth Ann holds an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley in East Asian Languages. She is passionate about helping small and medium businesses succeed and is an active mentor in the start-up and accelerator community.
Facebook launched #SheMeansBusiness in 2016, as its long-term commitment to women’s economic empowerment. The program supports women-owned enterprises to enter the digital economy, through skills training and business inspiration.
Globally, #SheMeansBusiness and its strong network of community partners have trained one million women across 38 markets.
In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Facebook’s SheMeansBusiness expanded its scope and added training on business resiliency through financial education. The aim is to help women face the economic impacts of the pandemic and navigate their businesses out of the crisis. To learn more about She Means Business, visit: https://shemeansbusinessfb.com/
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.