3 May 2021 | News/Stories

#ChooseToChallenge: Inclusive leadership in times of crisis

The Male Champions of Change Philippines (MCC PH), in partnership with the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines (ANZCHAM), ANZCHAM Women in Business Committee, Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE), Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN), and Investing in Women (IW), hosted a webinar titled “#ChooseToChallenge: Inclusive Leadership in Times of Crisis” on 2021 March 25.



The well-attended event, part of the Women’s Month celebration, served as a venue for business executives to discuss best practices and practical action points to refine their inclusive leadership strategies in building diverse organisational structures and advancing gender equality.

His Excellency Steven J. Robinson AO, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, gave the keynote address. Ma. Aurora “Boots” Geotina-Garcia, MCC Philippines Co-Convenor, PhilWEN Chair and PBCWE Co-Chair, served as moderator. Speakers included Fernando Zobel de Ayala, then President and COO (now CEO) of Ayala Corporation and Andrew Penn, CEO and Managing Director of Telstra Corporation, Ltd.

Joining the discussion were Daniel Alexander, Chief Operating Officer of Manulife Global Business Services and President of ANZCHAM; Benjamin Romualdez, Country Managing Director of Telstra Philippines; John Philip Orbeta, Chief Human Resource Officer and Corporate Resources Group Head of Ayala Corporation; Cielo Narvaez, Country Operations Manager of Telstra Philippines, ANZCHAM Board of Director, and ANZCHAM Women in Business Committee Governor; Maricar Gonzales, ANZCHAM Executive Director; Jo Cruz-Almazar, Co-Chair of ANZCHAM Women in Business Committee and Head of Communications and Branding of QBE; Julia Abad, PBCWE Executive Director; and Reuben James Barrete, MCC PH Program Director.

Key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Driving diversity means taking concerted efforts to address existing cultural and social barriers.
  • Empathy is vital in leadership and one way to show it is to simply listen, learn and lead.
  • Gender equality and diversity are all key ingredients to thrive and survive in all uncertain events.

The following action points were recommended:

How to promote workplace gender equality and address existing social and cultural barriers exacerbated by the crisis:

  • Topmost priority of leaders must be to protect employees, especially in a crisis, with the key priorities being physical health, financial stability, and overall well-being—regardless of the employees’ gender or background.
  • Leaders must foster an inclusive work environment and invest in a talent pipeline and opportunities for advancement.
  • There is a need for collective energy and commitment of all institutions to steadily build back better, survive and thrive.

How to show empathy in leadership:

  • Create a safe environment that enables employees to speak up and work with their leaders for solutions.
  • Be cognizant of others’ situation while being grounded in shared values and experiences.
  • Foster a sense of community: while there is no playbook for a crisis, leaders steering the company must not only give orders but let employees know that “we are all in this together.”

How to advance gender equality, diversity and inclusion (D&I):

  • Provide employees with tools and resources in the context of changing limitations.
  • Enhance flexibility: Every role in the company can be done flexibly given that there are tools to support these roles.
  • Ensure that employees feel empowered to share their best ideas and innovate change within the organisation.
  • As a male ally, choose to be bold, courageous and visible alongside women and advocate for bringing diversity in senior leadership roles.
  • Challenge inequality and stereotypes by:
    – Creating equal opportunities, ensuring that there is equal distribution in candidates between women and men;
    – Taking the initiative to seek where inequalities exist and how your organisation will be able to address them;
    – Going beyond looking at gender diversity ratios and be proactive on creating changes in the current life cycle to produce a more inclusive environment;
    – Addressing inequalities by providing better access to education and healthcare.

Call to action

Men also have the responsibility to advocate for gender equality; and both women and men must continue to engage in more conversations on gender equality and diversity and inclusion. There is a need to re-educate and re-communicate the benefits of workplace gender equality and D&I, particularly when it comes to talent retention, employee engagement, and performance.

Having established that a more diverse and inclusive workplace always leads to better results, the mission now is to break down stereotypes and continue to work with women in leadership, and LGBT+ communities—the whole spectrum. Leaders especially have a responsibility to promote D&I since they have the budget to support it and can set an example for other organisations to follow.



“#ChooseToChallenge: Inclusive leadership in times of crisis” underscored the role of men as champions of change, as noted in this press article, “Why men should champion workplace equality and diversity.

The benefits of workplace gender equality are discussed in this video.

COVID-19 is impacting women and men differently and work strategies need to adapt to suit according to this brief, A gender-responsive employment recovery: Building back fairer.

Learn more about the Male Champions of Change in this impact report.

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