Among the many ways to push for gender equality in the Philippines is to promote the inclusion of female board members in companies. Aside from benefiting one’s own career as a woman, this can also strengthen a company’s decision-making moving forward, according to various female board members from around the world.
“When you have women on the board, I believe discussions are richer and more colorful and the diverse points of view make for stronger and more compelling decisions,” said Nina D. Aguas, executive chair of Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd., at a forum by the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and Filipina CEO Circle (FCC).
Ms. Aguas was recognized as a gender equality champion for leadership commitment at the 2021 Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Awards.
“A board seat has no gender,” she emphasized at the forum on March 10, but noted that “We are just as qualified as the male species.”
Whether it’s instilling nationwide policies, building an internal culture that’s empowering for women, or setting up sustainable gender reporting, the Philippines has made strides to close the gender gap in the workplace.
This gap exists on boards of companies all over the globe, which makes the visibility of women as leaders all the more important, said MargueriteSoeteman-Reijnen, chair of the executive board of Aon Holdings in Netherlands.
As chair of the advisory board of the Dutch nationwide diversity C-suite female empowerment initiative, she added that laws to ensure more diverse boards have begun to be implemented across Europe, and the rest of the world.
“We’ve started to make women visible. [In the Netherlands] we started a database so that when people are looking for new directors and commissioners, there are eligible women for those roles,” she said.
Marjorie Lao, the non-executive director of Logitech International SA, recommended that women in multinational companies first become members of subsidiary boards, which may not be the same but can at least be a first step towards sitting on a bigger board.
“People would often say that the access to board roles is dependent on networks, meaning it’s people sitting on boards who recommend other board members,” she explained. “There now is an increasing deliberateness in terms of defining and building the required skills and capabilities that they need.”
The size of a board is also a factor in encouraging more diversity, said Sheridan Broadbent, independent director of Trustpower Ltd., in New Zealand.
She said that women on boards of seven or eight people have to be bold and go after what they want based on their judgment: “If you’re on a board that is large enough to have diversity around that table, especially if you’ve got newer directors, it can be great way to unleash the potential of diversity.”
For Filipina CEOs in particular, Ms. Aguas summarized everyone’s advice by encouraging women to simply raise their hand.
“If you hear the opportunity to be on a board, the first thing to do is raise your hand,” she said, “Because often we’re very shy about this.” — Bronte H. Lacsamana