• The 27th Global Summit of Women

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    Ma. Isabel Ongpin

    First of 2 parts
    I’VE just returned from attending the 27th Global Summit of Women held in Tokyo from May 12 to 13. The GSW, as it is known, is concerned with the economic status of women in the quest for equality. It is now on its 27th year, an institution capably built up and managed by Fil-Am leader, Irene Natividad. There were 1,300 registered conference participants coming from over 60 countries. It was an intense two-day conference with morning plenary sessions and afternoon breakout forums, with meals and social events in between. We had dinner under the moon at the Akasaka Palace, witnessed awards given to outstanding women— Joyce Banda, the former President of Malawi and Yuriko Koike, the incumbent governor of Tokyo,.

    Speakers like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, our own Vice President Leni Robredo, the Vice President of Vietnam, the board chairman of Japan Airlines, the heads of leading Japanese companies and multinational businesses based in Asia, youth participants, business people including fashion designers (our Josie Natori), government officials (the Philippines sent a delegation from the Department of Agriculture’s gender and diversity program, bravo!).

    The other Filipino participants were businesswomen involved in insurance, consulting, public relations, banking, airlines, shipping, retailing, consulting, non-government organizations, the whole spectrum of the Filipino woman experience. Josie Natori, Doris Ho and Myrna Yao were speakers while Ambassador Delia Domingo Albert and Maan Hontiveros were moderators.

    The issues were equal pay for equal work, representation in corporate boards and work and family life balance. Also, environment and technology. These are all current issues for women in the workplace.

    In the case of equal pay for equal work, the fact that at entry levels women are paid less than men multiplies into a huge salary gap after a number of years as salaries are regularly increased by percentages. Moreover, if a woman takes time off from work to have children and then comes back, she virtually starts all over again in the salary scale. Meanwhile her male colleague whose ability and work is the same as hers, keeps getting his regular increases while she does not because she is starting again. Yet the skills are the same but the time off for having, and taking care of, a child, clearly a contribution to society as a whole, is penalized. Many enlightened societies are understanding of the issue and are rectifying the inequality, but they are still only a handful.

    One of the advances in business and social activities that is now available is technology. One speaker said, “Data is the new oil” for the instant information and communication that it can provide to make decisions and manage their implementation in a speedy and acceptable way. In this way, women could work from their homes while caring for their children, or manage their homes from their work. The use of technology is now the norm and failing to be adept at it is what will leave those without it behind.

    In the matter of women representation in corporate boards, some countries have enacted laws putting quotas on a timeline. The United Kingdom and France with laws for it have made great progress from virtually a void. The Scandinavian countries are far ahead, with quotas in place. In Asia, Malaysia and Vietnam, with government requirements and soft quotas, are doing well (16.6 percent and 16.4 percent, respectively). Australia and New Zealand (27.2 percent and l9.3 percent) are progressing farther. Making female representation a requirement in publicly listed companies is one way. Kazakhstan has 20 percent board representation in publicly listed businesses. In Thailand, 80 percent of listed corporations have a woman on their board. Japan, the third largest economy in the world, is way behind (6.9 percent). However, progressive Japanese companies like Shiseido, Japan Air Lines and Calbee have good gender diversity programs in place.

    Why is it essential for women to be in corporate boards? Because half of the world is female and business matters affect them and they in turn affect business matters. Research has shown that corporations with women on their boards perform better profit-wise and ethics-wise. Moreover, they give the board a wider and truer perspective of the people they employ, interact and do business with. Also, women make the most purchasing decisions ($10 trillion worth), something that business has to take into consideration.

    (To be continued tomorrow)

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