MANILA - The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce said that while the country is ahead of its regional neighbors in terms of accommodating queer individuals, it still has a lot of room to improve.
LGBT individuals are still discriminated against in the hiring process, said Ronn Astillas, Chairperson of the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
"The job market is still challenging for LGBT individuals,” Astillas said during the 1st Inclusive Philippines Business Summit.
He said that in 2018 there was a study conducted called the corporate SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression) diversity and inclusiveness index.
It measured how inclusive companies are, and found out that out of 100 of companies that were surveyed, only 17 percent are inclusive, have a semblance of policies that accept LGBTQ individuals and make sure they don’t feel discriminated against.
“That is 17 percent back in 2018. I doubt, we will review that study soon, and I doubt it has reached 50 percent already,” Astillas added.
Rona Mae Lallana, an entrepreneur who is also a member of the Chamber, LGBTQ individuals are sometimes overlooked and neglected even by marketing agencies.
Lallana said while it is no longer taboo to feature minorities in marketing campaigns or other media, there are still sectors that hesitate to do so.
Second generation business owners who are progressive, who are millennials are more accepting, Lallana said.
"But others for example, especially maybe for older clientele or more conservative businesses, there are still challenges,” Lallana said.
But the group also tries to frame the issue in a way that does not scare away customers. They try to show instead that inclusicvity will attract more business.
“This is going to show your millennial market that you care and that you have principles, and that is going to make them advocate for your brand, your product, your services," Lallana said.
Matthew Lee, a member of the LGBT Chamber, meanwhile related that he is thankful that his business was not affected when he came out as gay.
Lee, who runs a photo studio, said he used to fear what might happen to his business if word got out regarding his sexual orientation.
"I used to be quite afraid of coming out as openly gay, especially being in the wedding industry kasi, you know it is a construct by the church, it is something only straight people in this country can enjoy. I thought I would be judged and clients would turn me down or turn me away,” Lee said.
But after coming out in 2019 Lee has seen the opposite come true.
"Ever since I came out, I have been faced with nothing but encouragement, especially my clients. I find they celebrate me more, they are appreciative that I shared this part of myself with them,” Lee said.
"I would say that coming out as openly gay, has opened up also a whole new market for the queer community.”
Astillas also noted that the LGBT Chamber has grown from just 4 members to 45 and counting.