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Business priority: Diversity and inclusion

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis demonstrated that there is no one-solution-fits-all in the path to recovery. The ways in which leaders chose to shift their actions and priorities to achieve an effective response required the willingness to experiment and the empathy to understand the needs of their clients, employees, and communities.

In 2020, the McKinsey Global Institute noted that gender-diverse companies have a significantly greater advantage in being effective, adaptive, and productive. While we are still at the beginning of a long economic recovery from the crisis, ensuring gender balance and equal opportunities provides us with the capacity to be ahead of the curve and to steer toward a more gender-equal future.

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Last March 25, Male Champions of Change Philippines (MCC PH), in partnership with the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines Women in Business Committee (ANZCHAM), Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE), Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN), and Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian government, organized the webinar “#ChooseToChallenge: Inclusive Leadership in Times of Crisis.” In the face of pressing priorities, recognizing diversity and inclusion (D&I) as an essential long-term approach is not only a business imperative but also a step crucial to national development.

The crisis amplified the need to adopt a “people first” perspective in carrying out transformational change. Public-private partnerships are now more than ever driven by the desire to protect the overall well-being of citizens and to advance national recovery during the pandemic. There is a broad range of ways to advance D&I within and beyond the workplace: flexible work arrangements, investing in a diverse talent pipeline, and urging men to step up to an equal share of unpaid care work are just some of the practices that companies can adopt.

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Ayala Corporation shares the belief that a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace generates tremendous benefits in terms of organizational performance, talent attraction, retention, and innovation.

“Gender equality is just the start of what is a much longer and more meaningful journey. There are other areas in the intersection of gender equality and diversity that we have yet to fully consider, which certainly presents opportunities to make a difference. Research and experience have shown that meaningful insights, relevant products and services, and impactful solutions to complex global challenges are only possible through a diverse group with a wide range of perspectives,” Ayala Corporation president and CEO Fernando Zobel de Ayala shared during the event.

Companies that choose to challenge their traditional ways and attitudes toward working are better positioned to achieve the best outcome. Telstra Corporation CEO and managing director Andrew Penn also shared that “Our company’s approach is to begin with removing the same programs and policies that led to gender imbalance.” He mentioned that what is important is the determination to relearn how genuine change is acquired and, most importantly, it is about one’s commitment to action.

Telstra’s commitment to Male Champions of Change enabled them to challenge their capabilities and proactively go beyond what they are already doing. This coalition in Australia engages leaders in courageous conversations and encourages men to stand beside women in creating the change we need. Learning from each other provides us with an opportunity to reassess our own policies and implementations and to reshape our companies with a competitive advantage. By raising awareness and educating one another, we equip ourselves with the knowledge to introduce better and more inclusive changes in the way our companies operate and relate to employees—changes that will continue post-recovery from the pandemic.

Driving D&I calls for conscious and collaborative action that requires concerted efforts from “top-down “and “bottom-up.” It is not a “one-off“ initiative or simply a “must-have” or something “nice to have” during a period of uncertainties. It is a continuing business priority to sustain the efforts on gender equality, diversity, and inclusion, and a means for organizations to thrive, survive, and achieve resilience through and beyond the pandemic.

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Ma. Aurora “Boots” D. Geotina Garcia is the co-convenor of the Male Champions of Change Philippines, chair of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network, and co-chair of the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment.

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Makati Business Club is a founding member and co-convenor of the Male Champions of Change Philippines.

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Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).

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