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Filipinas are breaking the glass ceiling


In its 2020 Global Gender Gap Report, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said that it would take 99.5 years before the world can achieve gender parity. A year later, in its 2021 report, WEF said that it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide. That means, it will not happen in our lifetime.


The setback was mainly due to a decline in the performance of large countries. The WEF also said that, based on preliminary evidence, the global health crisis had a more severe impact on women, thus partially re-opening gaps that had already been closed.


But on the country scenario, the Philippines is actually doing well. It has already closed 78.4 percent of its overall gender gap. In the 2021 report, we are 17th worldwide, the second best in the East Asia and Pacific region (after New Zealand), and first in the Asian continent (followed by LAO PDR, which is 37th worldwide).


We have already achieved gender parity in Educational Attainment and Health and Survival. This means literacy is universal and that women can expect to live in good health five years longer than men.


In terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity, we are one of the 18 economies in the world that have closed at least 79.5 percent of the gap. In fact, the country has already closed its gender gap in senior roles, and in professional and technical roles. The remaining challenge is participation in the broader labor force. Income and wage gaps also persist.


Among the four fundamental categories, the country is lowest in Political Empowerment. The Philippines is actually one of the few nations where women held the head-of-state position more often than the norm. However, women representation in parliament — the Senate and House of Representatives — is only 28 percent, while female representation in ministerial positions is only 13 percent.


But overall, gender parity in our country is achievable. In fact, when I became part of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), I thought my gender would pose a challenge as it was dominated by male engineers. That was not the case. At the top tier, it was more equally represented. A big reason for that was because the department head himself, Secretary Mark Villar, gave the directive to have more female officials.


I consider myself fortunate for having been born at a time when gender equality in the Philippines is already well advanced. The women of today owe it to the women before us.


We are here because the generations of women before us fought for their rights. We are here because of the men who joined the fight for gender parity. Because achieving gender equality is not the women’s fight alone, it’s also about men realizing that they have a great role in it.


I remember, my mom would tell us that Cinderella or Snow White were not our role models. From a young age, we were told that we do not need saving because we can be heroes of our own stories. We were not expected to subscribe to traditional gender roles.


The generations before us already paved the way, many Filipinas have successfully broken the glass ceiling. They empower us to do the same.

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