Championing women empowerment, workplace diversity and inclusion

International Women’s Day, celebrated this month, is an annual event honoring and recognizing the accomplishments of women around the world. This year’s theme is #ChoosetoChallenge, a call to action for all people to step up and challenge gender bias and inequality.

While the Philippines ranks 16th out of 153 countries in gender equality within the workplace, breaking gender inequality and gender-based stereotypes continues to be a work in progress.

One corporation that aims to break gender bias and is a staunch advocate of diversity and inclusion is Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company.

Nestlé believes the world can be a more progressive place when women are given the same opportunities as men and are able to harness their full potential. For this reason, in March 2019, Nestlé launched its Gender Balance Acceleration Plan as a global initiative for gender parity, with the aim of increasing the proportion of women in the group's top 200 senior executive positions worldwide. Since its launch, the plan has driven a 25% increase in women for top senior executive positions, and the company is on track towards its 2022 goal of attaining a proportion of at least 30% women leaders.

At Nestlé Philippines, one exemplar of a highly empowered female executive is Christine Ponce Garcia, AVP for Sustainability and Public Affairs. “Nestlé enables me to perform to the best of my abilities in and out of the workplace, at home with my family, and in the community. Through its supportive policies like extended maternity leave and flexible working arrangements, access to breastfeeding rooms, and the presence of a daycare center in our office, I was able to take care of my two children with my husband Tony, and go back to school for an MA in Women and Development at UP Diliman—all while continuing my advocacy of women empowerment and gender equality. Nestlé also assigned me to different leadership roles based not on my gender but my capabilities and passion,” says Ms. Garcia.

However, attaining diversity and inclusion does not end with simply offering more positions of power to women. According to her, the challenge to this day remains the division of household labor.

“Most women still handle the majority of household tasks and caring responsibilities. While women's participation in the workforce has increased, women up to the present perform the majority of housework, which disempowers them. This limits women’s pursuit of advancement in their careers,” she explains.

Even prior to the adoption of the global theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, Nestlé had already chosen to challenge the norm. In December 2019, Nestlé launched its Global Parental Support Policy, which enhances parental paid leave. The Philippines was one of the first countries to launch and implement this policy, which recognizes the diversity of families, that the parental role is not solely defined by gender. The policy is currently implemented in 49 countries where Nestlé operates.

“Happily, Nestlé recognizes that child care is not just a woman’s job, and my husband does the majority of our housework. Nestlé’s parental support policy extended paternity leave from nine days to four weeks!” states Ms. Garcia.

Her work ethic, drive and enthusiasm for engagement with the world extend beyond Nestlé Philippines. As a proud Cordilleran, she is one of Baguio’s Outstanding Woman Leaders who conducts WOMENtoring sessions for young women and leads the provision of psychological first aid for COVID-19 patients in the city. Moreover, she facilitates capacity-building programs on gender and women empowerment for barangay leaders in Baguio as well as members of the Junior Chamber International Philippines.

Ms. Garcia is determined to call out gender bias and inequality. She urges all women to do the same, and #ChoosetoChallenge the norms of today’s society by finding their voice.

“First, recognize that you have a voice. It is yours and not anybody else’s. Second, soundcheck your voice. Identify your own biases and correct them. Third, use that voice every day. It is powerful. It is life-changing. This goes beyond posting in IG and FB. Call out and act on any behavior or action that diminishes your value as a woman. But make sure that you also have to propose a solution. Lastly, go out to communities and spend time with grassroots women. You will learn more about your privileges and their lack thereof. This will inspire you to use those privileges to empower other women,” she advises.

Embracing and building diversity and inclusion, and empowering women, are an imperative for Nestlé Philippines. In fostering a workplace that provides equal opportunities, the company is upholding women’s rights and their chances for getting ahead minus gender as a consideration. In joining the celebration of International Women’s Day, Nestlé Philippines is proud to be the #KasambuhayNiJuana.