Why March is Women’s Month

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

“It will take over 200 years for women to be at par with men,” a news report from Davos said. Now, that’s “encouraging” (I hope you realize I am being sarcastic). But when we talk about equality, there really is much to do in the gender equality side. Why? Because sometimes it is the women who prevent other women from rising up. Sometimes it is other women who think women are lesser mortals. And oftentimes it is women who think we cannot do what men can do. So there are jobs that are “panglalaki” (meant for men) and “pambabae” (meant for women). And we as a society have long accepted these differentiations.

Today, with technology and modern methods, the lines have blurred. Women can now be engineers and men can be fashion designers. Women can be scientists and men can be hairdressers (even if not in the LGBTQ category). Women can manage mining companies and men can manage beauty or aesthetic businesses.

In TESDA Women’s Center, we promote non-traditional careers for women starting with welders and plumbers, as well as automotive technicians and painters in construction jobs. This is because special skills get paid more and this is one way of allowing women to take part in higher paying jobs, even if they did not get a college degree. The TESDA Women’s Center Advisory Council, a group of women from various fields of expertise, all rally behind the center in exploring non-traditional jobs for women.

In the hospitality industry we often find women who multi-task, women managers who are perfect for operations and women who make tough decisions as chair or top management for hotels, restaurants and other food service institutions. Now, we are finding women at the upper echelon of board directors, too. This is why we formed a group called NextGen Organization of Women Corporate Directors or NOWCD where we promote diversity in boards through inclusion of women in the usual “all-men” boards.

Why do we celebrate Women’s Month when it can be women’s year or women’s day everyday? It is to give focus to the big steps women have made to try and get equal pay and equal opportunities for well-paying careers and careers despite or inspite of growing a family. During Women’s Month, the default topic is the ability of women to rise up amidst challenges and women’s gumption and grit to get ahead and succeed.

At a restaurant I frequent I asked a woman in her 40s how long she has been working there. She said: “I used to work here already but left to attend to my children and now I am back to work for good.” That’s the spirit. Women can take a break during child-bearing years  then come back to work for good. Another woman I met in a high-paying corporate job chose to quit to attend to her family and their business. These women had choices and took them. What about others who do not have much choice? They hustle. They multi-task. They hold two jobs: one at home and one at work. We celebrate these hard-working women who do both – keep a family and hold on to a job or career.

March is the time all these success stories are told – of women who have struggled but succeeded. Women are celebrated in the popular GO NEGOSYO awards of Joey Concepcion, and women are also featured in various fora, in many places, to keep reminding women to just continue dreaming and achieving. And we need that dose of inspiration to carry on.

So, this March, we have to ask ourselves what we have done to further the cause of women. Is our company inclusive and fair to women and men? Is our business empowering women? Or is our business exploiting women and girls? We need to face the reality that sometimes we choose to hire men over women because of maternity leaves mandated for women. We sometimes have to face the reality that we choose to hire men because they can carry loads and women cannot. Mind you, in construction jobs, women can take the higher paying jobs requiring brain and not brawn. They need not carry cement bags but still be part of a construction team.

In our own household, how do we treat our female staff? Do they get the same benefits as the men? We can pause to look at how we treat women in our workforce. In our company I am proud that my nephews have hired women engineers and are proud of them, even if I am still working on removing women models in car shows. I need more work in convincing the car-buying public that you are buying a car, not the model. Boys will be boys, so they put female models but did you know that purchase decisions for cars are actually made by women? Maybe car companies will be better off putting K-pop stars in car shows, to draw the fans who are women.

So, again, why is there Women’s Month? To remind one and all that women have a good role to play in society. You can start by reading the “First Filipina” book published by Amb. Delia Domingo Albert many years ago. Or just go to the roster of women’s associations and you will find that many women leaders are actually right in your midst. It is not about “women’s rights” but more about women’s opportunities to excel in whatever field they choose.

And for our young women, we hope that they find role models and inspiring examples of women who have excelled in their business or career. Then we will have more young girls who will aspire to be women leaders, scientists, inventors or journalists.

And to parents, do expose your girls to promising careers and never treat them like the weaker sex.

So, young woman, rise up and be counted. It’s your month, your year, your century.

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