Workplace Gender Equality (WGE) exists when everyone, regardless of gender, can equally access and enjoy resources, opportunities and benefits to progress at all levels. This entails eliminating gender discrimination and removing barriers to women’s participation and leadership in the economy, among other interventions. Making a commitment to WGE is an important first step; practical actions are crucial to building a gender-equal workplace.
At the Asian Development Bank’s inaugural Gender Forum on 22 November 2021, Investing in Women (IW) co-hosted a Knowledge Labs session, titled “Stories from the Frontline: Advancing Workplace Gender Equality in Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam.” This session put a spotlight on WGE initiatives, strategies and practical learnings from member firms of the four IW-supported Business Coalitions in South East Asia.
The Knowledge Labs session, moderated by Business Partnerships Director Kathy Mulville, was part of the 2021 ADB Asia and the Pacific Virtual Gender Forum: “The Power to Transform: Gender Equality in the Asia and the Pacific,” held on 22-25 November 2021. The forum sought to inform, influence and inspire action on gender equality. Participants spanned the globe, and included members of the academe, private and public sector, and humanitarian and development organisations.
“Identifying and introducing strategies to advance workplace gender equality—which are appropriate to the local culture—can be challenging, and so it is really important that company leads who are actively engaged can share their experiences of what works and the issues they face,” said Ms. Mulville during the session opener.
Stories and successes
Investing in Women’s Knowledge Labs session presented four companies as case studies of WGE practice in the region:
- Indonesia Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (IBCWE) member firm Tira Austenite’s promotion of women’s leadership, presented by Nizma Fadila, Monitoring, Evalution and Learning (MEL) Coordinator at IBCWE;
- Business Coalition for Gender Equality (BCGE) member firm KBZ Bank’s vision-setting, prioritisation and implementation of workplace gender equality (WGE) and diversity and inclusion (D&I) policies and initiatives in the workplace, presented by Ei Thanda Hlaing, Head of Virtual Branch and Head of Learning and Development at KBZ Bank;
- Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE) member firm Philippine National Bank’s (PNB) anti-sexual harassment policy and complaint/investigation procedures, presented by Atty. Marykoll Tuiza C.H. Ibrahim, Industrial Relations Department Head and Committee on Decorum and Investigation Lead at PNB;
- Vietnam Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment (VBCWE) member firm EVNGENCO3’s diversified flexible working arragements, customsied to the role and operational context, presented by Quan Vo, Workplace Gender Equality Assessment and Consultancy Manager at VBCWE.
The presenters discussed how each company strove to overcome prevailing challenges and gradually transformed their workplaces to achieve the following business outcomes:
- Tira Austenite nearly doubled women’s leadership in a male-dominated workplace from seven to 12 female managers in the span of a year from 2017 to 2018 by setting up a mechanism for non-discriminatory recruitment, and early identification and development of women leaders—the company also increased business revenue in the first quarter of 2021 despite a prolonged pandemic;
- KBZ Bank, in line with its WGEDI strategic vision, cascaded gender, diversity and inclusion training to 500 bank branches, resulting in improved scores on D&I knowledge among the employees. Beyond offering both maternity and paternity leave benefits, the company also established a non-discrimination policy and a childcare time-off policy that encouraged new parents–especially mothers–to continue working. Additional family-friendly measures such as work-from-home arrangements during the pandemic were provided to pregnant women and new mothers. Outcomes include 90% retention of women and men employees, and more than 60% women in leadership.
- PNB’s well-crafted Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy, which was communicated company-wide, and the formation of a dedicated Committee on Decorum and Investigation resulted in 7 out of 7 or 100% of sexual harassment complaints, from 2018 to 2021, being fairly resolved within the prescribed period.
- EVNGENCO3, in consultation with VBCWE, developed a diverse menu of flexible work options customised to the role of staff and the nature of operations in the power company’s various subsidiaries—leading to improved employee well-being and talent retention; higher productivity; and better tech innovation and quality of work—all within a gender-equal environment.
The session identified some drivers of WGE progress, across industry sectors, with a Q&A near the end that yielded the following takeaways:
- WGE starts from the top. Leadership commitment and accountability, over time and at all levels of the organisation, can be a key driver of WGE success—particularly in ensuring that women are given equal opportunity to lead.
- Execution should be data-driven. Rigorous collection and monitoring of gender-disaggregated data informs decision-making and the crafting of more purposeful measures to progress WGE.
- Diversity of thought improves processes. Feedback is important and that includes gaining perspectives from stakeholders, staff and management.
- Conversation can be converted into action. The sharing of best practices within a network of peers can be constructive.
- Utilise available resources. Support via relevant training and WGE assessment tools and certifications, tailored to the local context – provided by the local Business Coalitions – can help structure a company’s WGE journey.
Watch the recording of the Knowledge Labs Session for more detailed and localised insights through the four presentations and Q&A session.
VIDEO COURTESY OF ADB: Recorded during the 2021 ADB Asia and the Pacific Virtual Gender Forum | The Power to Transform: Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific, held on 22-25 November 2021. More info: adb.org/gender.