Four Filipino companies have received the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Award for their exemplary practices that promote gender equality in business and the workplace and advocate for women’s economic empowerment. They qualify to compete at the regional UN Women WEPs Awards in the Asia-Pacific in December after bagging top national gender equality trophies.
GREAT Women, a project that supports local women entrepreneurs, won the Leadership Commitment and Gender-responsive Marketplace Awards, while Coca-Cola earned the Gender-inclusive Workplace and Community and Industry Engagement Awards. Of the remaining two categories, Filipino startup incubator QBO Innovation Hub topped the Youth Leadership Award, while social farming enterprise AGREA won the COVID-19 Action Award.
Vice President Leni Robredo emphasized the important role of these recognized business leaders in the economic empowerment of women in her keynote speech. “As leaders in the private sector, you are well-positioned to help Filipinas take this step. Beyond plugging gaps and addressing specific needs, you can help steer and complement public policy towards equality and greater empowerment. You can show your fellow leaders, both in the private and public sectors, that indeed equality means business. That more than simply being the right thing to do, empowerment pays off—people live better; workforces become more productive, the bottom line for all is raised.”
Investing in women is what Coca-Cola has been doing according to Jonah de Lumen-Pernia, the company’s Director for Public Affairs and Sustainability. “Aside from doing it internally, we saw an opportunity to do it in our value chain,” she said, attributing their win to the company’s business training sessions that helped build the confidence of women sari-sari store owners.
Thomas Wiersing, Chargé d’affaires of the Delegation of European Union to the Philippines, reiterated in his opening remarks that the private sector is part of the solution and can make a difference in bridging the gender gaps. This was echoed by the UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, Gustavo González, who said that “This evening’s winners revealed to us that businesses and enterprises, no matter their size and sector, are capable partners for action.”
Representing the tech industry, leaders like Executive Director Katrina Chan of QBO Innovation Hub are accelerating progress in workplace gender parity. “This recognition is really all about how we can empower our startup Pinays—women-led businesses in tech that are innovating and creating impact. We believe that one day, in this industry, it will be normal for women to be part of creating all of these unique solutions.”
Meanwhile, Cherrie Atilano, CEO of AGREA, dedicated the award to all women in the agricultural sector who have been tirelessly working during the COVID-19 crisis alongside men. “Most of the point persons on the ground are the women because they are the ones securing enough food on the table, keeping the family healthy and budgeting at home.”
Austrian Ambassador and EU Gender Champion Bita Rasoulian further underscored the critical role of women especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. “To rebuild our societies better and stronger, we must put women at the center stage of all recovery efforts,” she said.
The UN Women 2020 Asia-Pacific WEPs Awards, which is organized through the European Union-funded WeEmpowerAsia program, recognized private sector initiatives in the Philippines for the first time for their outstanding approach to address gender imbalances and reach ambitious corporate targets for women’s representation.
Jeannie Javelosa, CEO of GREAT Women, closed the winners’ roundtable discussion with this statement: “We rage forward to break the boundaries that have always kept us down because that is what it is to be a woman today.”
The Philippine event, held virtually host Gretchen Ho, was the first of a series of WEPs Awards ceremonies, including in China and Indonesia on November 18, Vietnam on November 26, and India on December 1. The winners from all countries will have the chance to be selected as Asia-Pacific winners during a regional event on December 15 in Bangkok, where awardees from Malaysia and Thailand will also be announced.
The Philippine winners were chosen by a panel of experts from the United Nations, UP Center for Women and Gender Studies, the Commission on Human Rights, Economic-Socio and Cultural Rights Center, Global Compact Network Philippines, and P&A Grant Thornton, Philippines.
The WEPs is a joint initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact aimed at empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors and outlines seven steps for businesses to achieve that in the workplace, marketplace and community. To date, more than 3,800 companies around the world are signatories to the WEPs, including 16 companies from the Philippines.