Telum Vox Pops: What can communicators and agencies do to ensure diversity in regards to gender parity or to make a change?

Telum Vox Pops: What can communicators and agencies do to ensure diversity in regards to gender parity or to make a change?

A multi-year initiative focused on driving gender equality within organisations across Asia, NINEby9 has unveiled its inaugural report, “Gender Parity in Asia: the Moment of Truth.” Telum in collaboration with NINEby9, asked this question to communications leaders in Southeast Asia: What can communicators and agencies do to ensure diversity in regards to gender parity or to make a change?

Erin Padilla, CEO and Co-founder, Accela
All organisations - from start-ups to big corporates and agencies - need to strive for diversity and gender parity. Personally, I feel that different perspectives and life experiences fuel innovation - Accela is more creative thanks to the different backgrounds of our employees. If organisations don’t make a conscious effort towards diversity of all kinds, growth and culture stagnates.

When we talk specifically about gender parity in the workplace, it’s not only equal pay for equal work. Gender parity also means women on boards, equal opportunity for promotions and creating support for the many roles women play in society in addition to their paid work. Organisations need to acknowledge that women are often the main carers for their children, parents and other family members. We must support the women in our organisation as they juggle family commitments to ensure this doesn’t hinder their professional growth.
But companies also need to see this backed up by Government policies. If we want to achieve a groundswell of change, businesses need to be incentivised to support women, because the bottom line is, it does cost employers (in productivity and hiring contract support to plug any gaps). So while small women-led companies like ours support our women - because we feel it’s the right thing to do - many companies don’t because there isn’t enough societal pressure and fiscal support for it.

Jeanne Leong, Head, Portfolio Marketing, East Asia, British Council
As storytellers of the organisations we work for, communications professionals have the responsibility and power to change and lead the conversations. This can be as simple as ensuring the empathetic and neutral use of language and paying attention to the images that we use to represent our work, to telling stories ethically - by giving voices to individuals who have until now been left out of decision making in the organisations and in the board room. According to the latest report from the World Economic Forum, women hold only 20 per cent of managerial positions and just 15 per cent of board positions in Asia.

In addition, I am also supporting NINEby9. Women in organisations in Asia felt that they needed to ‘hide who they are to be accepted by their male colleagues – nearly 70 per cent in China, and 50 per cent in both India and Singapore. And this is just the tip of the EDI iceberg. Yet, a McKinsey report in 2018 estimated that by advancing women’s equality, $4.5 trillion could be added to the economies of Asia Pacific by 2025.

How we tell our organisation’s stories to affect the reputation of the businesses we work for. That is our power. But that power must also be used to give voice to the unheard within our organisations and beyond. It is our responsibility.

Ying Nee Ooi, Managing Director, Commas PR
I came across a quote from a friend recently who spoke of the working mother dilemma, “We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work.” As a small business of a PR agency that is manned mostly by women, we experience first-hand how gender inequality hurts a small business like ours that are trying to give more opportunities to women in the workforce. Most women are expected to be the primary carer of the young, the elderly and the infirm.

Although women make up more than half of the global workforce, we still work in a culture that doesn’t make concessions for women and a culture that does not expect men to share the responsibility of parenting in the same way that women are expected to. This inequality is punitive to women. Women have had to sacrifice their sanity, promotions, advancements and the pandemic has amplified this dilemma. Small businesses like ours that are looking to retain, and advance our female workforce; take on the loss of productivity when our staff go on maternity leave or when the kids are ill. We do this without any government support.

If we want diversity in the workforce, we need systemic change. Normalise and extend paternity leave. Educate men into being full-time parents. In Malaysia, small-medium enterprises make up more than 90% of incorporated companies. Help these companies to employ, retain and promote women and we’d see a marked improvement in diversity in the workforce.

In collaboration with global research firm Kadence International with support from Yale-NUS and Dynata, NINEby9 conducted its inaugural survey between July and August in 2021 to 3,000 working women from eight markets in 6 geographies of China (Shanghai and Shenzhen), Hong Kong, India (Mumbai and Bengaluru), Indonesia, Japan and Singapore. For more information on how you can help to drive gender parity in your workplace, visit its website.

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