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By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman, Reporter

International Women’s Month may be over, but the fight for gender equality never ends. Because, yes, “the struggle is real.”


According to the Philippine Commission on Women’s (PCW) “State of the Filipino Women Report 2015,” while more women than men may have higher educational attainments, it is estimated that men are still earning more.

While the literacy rate among women is 97%, just one percent higher than men, and the enrollment rate of both males and females in primary education is 90%, when it comes to enrollment in tertiary and secondary education, 38% and 70% of women respectively are enrolled in school, compared with men at 30% and 60%.

Despite the difference in educational attainment — although there is no absolute correlation between wages and education — more men are employed and receive better compensation than women.

The report said that 81% of men are part of the labor force compared with 53% of women.

In local politics, the men got the lion’s share of the seats in the legislature, 73%, while women make up only 27% of legislators. There is also a big gap when it comes to ministerial positions: 80% versus 20%.

According to PCW deputy executive director for management services Cecile B. Gutierrez, who spoke with BusinessWorld at the sidelines of a press conference about International Women’s Month on March 16, the unequal distribution of political empowerment and economic participation and opportunities between genders is one of the reasons why men have a higher estimated income than women: $8,184 (P380, 355.49) compared with $5,643 (P262,261.25).

The PCW is the primary policy-making and coordinating body on women and gender equality in the country. It doesn’t offer services, but gives advice to other government agencies.

“We don’t have direct services, but we point out services to other agencies like the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE),” said Ms. Gutierrez.

The PCW is mandated to: “review, evaluate, and recommend measures, including priorities to ensure the full integration of women for economic, social and cultural development at national, regional and international levels, and to ensure further equality between women and men.”

“The gender equality advocacy is not to overpower the men but to create equal and unlimited opportunities without barriers for women to achieve their full potential,” said PCW information resource management division officer-in-charge Honey M. Castro.

An example of their recommendations, according to Ms. Castro, is that women empowerment and equality should start at the education level.

“We advise DepEd through our board in making textbooks stop [using] stereotypes. We try to change the mind-set and to break the stereotypes,” she said. These include the use of stereotypical job roles (illustrations of men as engineers while women are often portrayed as homemakers) and gender insensitive words like using “he” to mean all of humanity.

“Women can be engineers, too,” she said.

“When we segregate jobs, [the] majority still have this mind-set… it starts with education [at the basic level]. The recent development is when parents themselves call the attention of teachers [about this].

“It takes decades, and even more, of mind changing,” said Ms. Gutierrez.

Empowerment of women may still have a long way to go, but there are initiatives, both private and governmental, toward getting to the goal.

In celebration of Women’s Month, one of Procter & Gamble’s detergent brands, Ariel, supported the PCW with its “Ahon Pinay” advocacy program, which targets the gender’s professional capabilities.

Mimi Lopez Malvar, P&G country government relations manager, said the program started in Vietnam in October 2015. “It can be said that the struggles of women resonate with us. They resonate with developing countries.”

Among other activities, “Ahon Pinay” provides grants and facilities to female students at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s (TESDA) Women’s Center to help them with their training courses, especially those women training for “manly” jobs like plumbing and welding. Apparently, more and more women are getting these kinds of jobs because they work with caution, precision, and attention to details.

In 2013, P&G’s hair care brand Pantene had television commercials called “Labels Against Women,” which illustrated some societal double standards: for instance, a man is labeled “neat” when he takes care of himself but women are called “vain” and “show-offs.”

“We’ve reached far,” said Ms. Gutierrez, “but we still have a long journey toward achieving gender equality.”