Education, interventions needed to close gender gap

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Women leaders yesterday underscored the importance of education and the government’s role in helping address gender inequality in society.

Speaking at the “Unleashing Women Economic Power and Human Capital Development” forum at the ongoing Asean Business and Investment Summit, SM Investments Vice-Chair Teresita Sy-Coson said government interventions could span ensuring safety to providing access to credit.

“There’s a lot of inequality in the world may it be race, trade; there are too many of them. The government can help. It can give [women]financial access or even peace and security, prevent violence against women because that will give them confidence,” Coson said.

“They (women) should be able to do their work in order to contribute to the public and private sector. Give them the confidence to contribute to society,” she added.

A World Economic Forum (WEF) report released just last week noted reversals in gender parity worldwide, with the global gap widening to 32 percent from 31.7 percent in 2016 based on a review of 144 countries.

It also noted that it would take 100 years to fully close the gap for the 106 countries covered since the report was started, increasing from 83 years last year.

The Philippines, in 10th place, retained a top ten ranking but was down three spots from 2016. With 79 percent of its overall gender gap closed, the country was said to have ceded the top spot in the Asia-Pacific region to New Zealand.

“A worsening performance on the wage equality for similar work indicator, dropping from 7th to 21st, partly accounts for this fall,” the report states, adding that the Philippines “also reopens a health and survival gap for the first time since 2006, although the educational attainment gender gap remains fully closed”.

Coson said that in the Philippines, women workers were relatively “fortunate”.

“About 48 percent of the work force are women and there has been a study that wages are lesser with women compared to men but that’s because when the woman has a child, then they are expected to take care of the kids and their family,” she said.

United Nations Under Secretary General Shamshad Akhtar, meanwhile, said “the story varies a lot in the Asia and the Pacific region.”

“But if you look at Asean, there’s a lot of learning. Asean is a front-runner in the region; the rapid growth that it has achieved has been accompanied by women’s participation which is almost close to 60 percent,” Akhtar said.

“That is remarkable compared to other regions. Asean women entrepreneurs are also close to 60 million, which is quite an impressive number,” she added.

Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. President and CEO Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, for her part, said that education played a vital role in closing the gender gap.

“The number one thing that women should work on is to have an education. Education is the number one leveler and the penetrating strategy for women to lead and succeed in a perceived men-dominated industry,” Agudo said.

“For women to succeed, you must be knowledgeable, and you must have competence, attitude and packaging,” she added.

“The challenge is to reframe the social expectations and attitude towards women leaders and shatter … wrong perceptions.”

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