14 September 2020 | News/Stories

Challenging gender norms, reinventing gender roles and collaborating in the face of a pandemic

The COVID-19 economic crisis has implications for both business owners and the workforce. Where businesses have either shut down or had to limit operation costs, some people have lost their jobs, others have been made to work fewer hours or been advised to work from home in the interest of their health and safety. While working remotely has been effective in mitigating the spread of the virus, it has also highlighted challenges faced by remote workers, particularly the disproportionate share of unpaid care work that falls on women, as they balance their paid workload with the unpaid work of running a household and caring for the family.

On 25 August, the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE)—a partner of Investing in Women—and the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN) presented Empowering the Family: Leadership Principles from Business to Home, a live webinar that tackled the issues facing Filipino families and discussed proactive and practical solutions to safeguard the physical and emotional well-being of family members while dealing with the crisis.

“Not only is the pandemic worsening economic issues, but also gender issues. Women and men are affected in significantly different ways and in varying degrees. Thus, it is crucial that our strategies for leading our families should challenge the existing gender norms and expectations in the household and reinvent these gender roles by employing gender equality concepts to ensure better collaboration in families,” said PBCWE Chair, Ma. Aurora ’Boots’ Geotina-Garcia, during her opening speech.

Three prominent speakers from the private sector were invited to the panel: Doris Magsaysay-Ho, President and CEO of the Magsaysay Group of Companies; Sarah Niguas, Research Head of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); and Program Content Developer and Consultant, Maricel Pangilinan-Arenas. Kim Patria, Partnerships Manager for Influencing Gender Norms at Investing in Women, facilitated the event.

Family Leadership Module launch

The webinar also marked the launch of The Family Leadership Module co-developed by PBCWE and the Magsaysay Group of Companies with the objective of helping employees translate their personal visions into collective family strategies so that they may create supportive and organised home teams. Maricel Pangilinan-Arenas shared an overview of the module.

She discussed how the multiple burdens of a full-time career, responsibilities as a mother, caring for elderly parents and supporting poor relatives—on top of managing a household—fall heavily on working women in the Philippines. She stressed how important it is to change this mindset of women having to do it all and how the Family Leadership Module can help.

“What we want to do with this programme is to champion a positive shift in attitude towards women, and that takes the cooperation of men as well. We would like to be able to appreciate and value unpaid emotional and physical work, whether it’s a man or woman doing it.”

“Together, we must cooperate to work to diminish harmful gender stereotypes and divide jobs and tasks at home equitably,” Pangilinan-Arenas said.

PBCWE is inviting companies to run the module for staff in their business, as a way of supporting their staff to better balance their work and family demands, equitably distribute work of the family and home, and be good leaders whether at home or at work.

Leadership in the office vs. managing the home

During her presentation, Doris Magsaysay-Ho talked about the challenges of managing a business and raising a family, with insights from her own experience as a single mother and that of her daughter who also has a family of her own.

She pointed out that when hiring people, some companies automatically assume that someone is taking care of the family at home. The reality, however, is that those working in formal work settings or in overseas assignments experience varying levels of anxiety over the well-being of their children, spouses, and elderly family members—they can carry a lot of guilt.

“The irony is that many of us have received management and leadership skills training for work, but have not been trained to be a leader or manager at home,” said Magsaysay-Ho.

She also emphasised the need to support workers to ensure that women and men are able to manage the family and home concerns, with a supportive employer and family ecosystem.

Magsaysay-Ho cited examples of positive actions a company can take, such as understanding that employees have family and home demands too, and training employees how to manage that part of their life, so that they can excel in both.

Recognising the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the workforce and their families, PMAP Research Head Sarah Niguas shared practical tips for families and communities in managing and responding to problems that individuals and families may be experiencing, albeit on a more personal level.

“It may be death in the family, a sickness, separation or divorce, or even domestic violence, loss of job, or loss of property,” Niguas said, citing examples of problems.

She explained it is important to acknowledge a crisis exists and have an organised approach to navigating it. Niguas highlighted the importance of communicating effectively with employers and seeking assistance from both family members and significant individuals outside the family when dealing with a crisis.

“If you are an employee, it is best to communicate your needs to your employer, articulate not only the factors that keep you motivated or productive, but also communicate the kind of challenges you’re facing,” said Niguas.

Niguas added that women cannot do everything society expects of them. “We need to break those expectations, and we need to tell everyone that we cannot do it all by ourselves.”


The webinar was livestreamed through PBCWE’s official Facebook page. You may also view the video on YouTube.

To learn more about the Family Leadership Module, contact PBCWE at communications@pbcwe.com.

PBCWE, a partner of Investing in Women, works with influential businesses in the Philippines on shifting workplace cultures, practices, and policy barriers to achieve workplace gender equality.

View other Stories