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More women at home

I recently received an invitation to join a corporate board as an independent director, and I had to ask: Are you doing this for compliance on diversity and inclusion? The answer: “Of course, it contributes to compliance, but we really want you to come on board because of what you do,” said the seemingly sincere corporate representative. Good then, I thought to myself. I do not wish to be just a token female in the board.

In our family corporations, women have always been given a voice, and we did not think of diversity and inclusion when the company was founded over 50 years ago. Yet, we are still around, which may be proof that diverse boards contribute to a company’s sustainability and profitability. That is before we’d heard of global surveys saying that diverse boards and management teams help make companies become sustainable, and ergo, profitable.

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In this pandemic era, what happens to women’s participation in management? Women are known to be the heart and soul of a corporate culture. This is where we need more empathy and care, which are so natural for women to extend to others.

For the new playbook of management in these tough and unprecedented times, women must intuit solutions and fresh ideas, while the men deal with logistics and infrastructure areas. There is much to be done in terms of revising operating procedures, and having women in the workforce helps us think of soft solutions to corporate challenges. How will we manage work from home staff? How do we deliver assistance to our employees who are forced to work from home? Leave it to the women to figure out, to talk from the heart, and deal with employee issues and challenges.

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Some challenges women face in the workforce:

Having more women in the workforce challenges management to extend help to working mothers who now have to multi-task chores and their children’s online classes. Women are now mothers and teachers.

Women must think of the meals at home as three meals are now taken with family.

Women must think of how to procure the usual household necessities via online channels.

Women must think of managing a household while thinking of her deliverables at work.

Some women find ways to juggle work and home, although at the expense of their health or sanityʍworking in the wee hours of the morning when the kids are asleep, sharing tasks with the partner, housemate, or spouse, giving tasks to older children, hiring extra help for laundry and cleaning chores, etc.

Women who are working from home are now challenged with a complex scenario: They have time with family, they need not commute, but they also do not have time for themselves or what we call “alone” time, to reflect, rest, pray, and maybe even to plan the future.

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Women in boards or management must help women in the ranks to have a life. It may be time to have trainings on changing the mindsets of husbands on sharing care work, and encouraging women to achieve the balance needed under this work-from-home environment that has become a new challenge.

Women in boards need not be too far removed from solving a woman’s plight at home. The challenge of staying home for a whole year with all the kids (and partner to boot) may turn out to be not the ideal scenario working women have dreamt of.

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Pacita “Chit” Juan has been an independent director and a fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors since 2006. She is also currently a trustee of PhilWEN.

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Women Who Lead is an initiative of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN).

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