Women power

Training programs need to be in place to equip more women with professional skills to put them on equal footing with their male counterparts.

Compared to most of their counterparts in Asia, Filipino women never had it so good. Filipino women have broken the glass ceiling, so to speak, to lead the pack in academics, politics and the professions.

We have had two female presidents, a feat that not even the United States could achieve. Many more occupy seats of power in government, the judiciary, the arts, business, communications, and even in domains previously considered male territory and strictly off limits once upon a time — the army, air force, navy and police.

I adore women, especially the sweet but strong ones — my grandmothers, aunts, mother, wife, daughters, women friends, and women co-workers — all have helped shape me into the man I am today.

Their immense impact on my character and well-being has inspired me to work harder to make them proud of what I have achieved in life.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said: “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” Nothing could be more accurate, with many examples in the Philippine workplace.

Comprising roughly 49 percent of the world’s estimated eight billion population, women’s power is nothing to sneeze at. In a tribute to women during his country’s controversial Cultural Revolution, the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong referred to them as those “who hold half the sky.”

Laws in the Philippines contain constitutional and legislative provisions in favor of what has been derisively called in the past “members of the weaker sex.”

These include laws on expanded maternity leave, equal opportunities in the workplace, anti-violence against women and children, assistance to small-scale women entrepreneurs, anti-sexual harassment, anti-rape, rape victims assistance and protection, and a Magna Carta of Women promoting the rights of Filipino women, especially those in the marginalized sector.

Then, of course, there is the annual holding of National Women’s Day on 8 March to coincide with International Women’s Day, a global event highlighting the achievements of women on issues concerning civil liberties, gender equality, and human rights.

Indeed, Filipino women had come a long way from the early stages of the revolution against our Spanish colonizers in the late 1900s when they fought side-by-side with a ragtag army serving valiantly as nurses, couriers, spies — even as soldiers — to that fateful day on 17 September I937 when they were given the right to vote, five years after Thai women went to the polls for the first time, and 17 years after American women were awarded the same privilege.

Despite the advances, much remains to be done. Many Filipino women remain victims of domestic violence, are trafficked in the sex and enslaved person markets of affluent economies, or are exploited in households that pay little even if they are more educated than their employers.

Perceived as “prime movers” in developing countries, their talents and expertise remain untapped. More telling is a United Nations Development Programme report showing that although 74 percent of females hold middle-level jobs in equal-opportunity companies, male executives were still the decision-makers.

Training programs need to be in place to equip more women with professional skills to put them on equal footing with their male counterparts. More importantly, attitudes must change, questioning a woman’s capability to do the job as well as a man’s.

Which brings to mind a joke that has made its rounds in countless ladies’ circles and goes like this: “Why was Adam made before Eve?” Answer: “Everyone needs a rough draft before they make a final copy.”

It sounds like the husband who gathered his friends during a poker game night out with the boys and proudly told them: “In my house, I am the king — and I have my wife’s permission to say so.”

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