Philippines" female execs still fear using technology

Von Jenalyn M.

Although females already play a significant role in the Philippines" workforce, there are still a lot of women who shy away from technology.

During the recently held First Philippine Summit on Women and Technology organized by the Women?s Business Council of the Philippines (WBCP) and the Information Technology Association of the Philippines (ITAP), Dittas Añonuevo-Formoso, ITAP president, told Computerworld Philippines in an interview that the growing percentage of female workers in the IT industry (a development not seen in other countries) is a good indicator of the importance women play in the economy. However, she was quick to add that she still sees resistance or even fear from some women of having to learn and adopt IT in their work.

It is this resistance that drove the WBCP and ITAP to hold a summit that sought to inspire women to open up to technology. The organizers? hope was that after the conference, the delegates would be excited ? rather than skeptical or fearful ? about technology.

During the summit, successful men and women from different fields shared their expertise and insights on the empowerment of women in a ?technology-enhanced environment.?

Formoso told Computerworld Philippines that the summit was a two-year project inspired by a global summit of women that she and WBCP member Marilyn Ong attended in Korea. She added that the large attendance of women in the conference was so encouraging they thought of organizing a similar event for women only, this time with particular focus on women and technology. ?We wanted to understand exactly how women are doing in a technology-enhanced environment vis-à-vis their own roles that they play in life,? she said.

Organized as an effort to empower women in a largely IT-influenced workplace setting, the summit showcased several women chief executive officers, leaders, and achievers who have gone far and who continue to make their mark in their respective fields. ?A lot of women are so invaluable to the companies they work for, it?s about time we leverage our roles in the economy,? Isabelita Palanca, WBCP chairperson, said. ?We would also like to help bridge the so-called digital gender gap.?

Comfortable with Technology

According to the event organizers, the summit was also inspired by the achievements of women in other countries who work ?comfortably? with technology. For example, in Macedonia, a large part of the female population is engaged in digital animation business while at home.

In the Philippines however, although women already play a significant role in the local workforce, there still are a lot of women who shy away from technology. According to Formoso, there is a lack of statistics about the overall percentage of women workers as opposed to men, but, she claimed that, in the IT industry, 43% of the workforce is made up of females. The ITAP president added that although women CEOs and leaders are slowly embracing IT, she still comes across some who are so used to having secretaries do the ?computer work? and who tend to relegate tasks that are technology-related. ?This is just the feel I get out of my encounter with women,? Formoso said.

The MasterIndex of Women?s Advancement in Asia Pacific ? which MasterCard International released earlier this year ? was presented at the summit, showing a glimpse of hope by indicating that although, in general, Asian women lag behind men in socio-economic development, they are catching up in other countries. This MasterIndex compares the socio-economic level of women to that of men in Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam, using four key indicators: participation in the labor force, tertiary education, managerial positions, and above median income.

With the MasterIndex as the mean score of the four indicators, a score above 100 shows gender inequality in favor of women and a score below 100, gender inequality in favor of men, while a score of 100 indicates complete equality between males and females. Thailand (92.3) and Malaysia (86.2) had the highest composite scores, indicating that women"s advancement was almost at par with men"s. Of particular note in the two markets were areas where women are clearly ahead of men: in Malaysia, the score of 119.4 for managerial positions showed a higher ratio of female to male managers, while in Thailand, the tertiary education score stood at 131.9.

While the Philippines? ninth ranking (ahead of New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia, and South Korea) was not bad, there obviously is a lot of work that still needs to be done. According to Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, economic advisor to MasterCard International in Asia/Pacific, Asia Pacific as a region compares relatively well in the global context in terms of women?s advancement in areas like labor force participation and higher education, but much more still needs to be done in the future.

Wong, in the MasterCard International Web site, added that, ?The more extensive women"s participation in all areas of economic activities, the higher the probability for stronger economic growth. Hence, societies and economies that consistently fail to fully incorporate women"s ability and talent in businesses and the workforce will suffer the consequences.?

?We realize that technology is pervasive, it?s not any more something nice to have; it?s there,? said Formoso, as she emphasized that the summit was an appreciation and encouragement of, as well as a persuasion for, women to give their best in their fields by realizing how technology can help them and make them better in what they do.

?We wanted to provide women with role models to help them achieve success in their chosen profession, especially those immersed in the use of technology,? said WBCP?s Palanca.