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Gender sensitivity

A Piece of Pie for Everyone

I HAVE always been mindful of the comments made by our readers in reaction to my articles.  In my last article, for instance, there was this curious reader who asked me why I had to use “he/she” and “his/her” every time I refer to a person.  He suggested that the use of “he” was sufficient.

In a Board Meeting that I attended, a Director called the attention of HR on gender sensitivity when reference was made by HR to a “he” when they referred to an employee.

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Of late, I have been hearing of this delicate subject which prompted me to write this article.

UNESCO, or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in its Gender Sensitivity Manual Introduction indicated, “Sexism exists in women as well as in men.  It has no respect for individual aspirations, potential or abilities.  In obvious and subtle ways, it influences the outcomes of a myriad of life situations the world over.  The concept of gender sensitivity has been developed as a way to reduce barriers to personal and economic development created by sexism.  Gender sensitivity helps to generate respect for the individual regardless of sex.”    (UNESCO, 2004)

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Balance Tilted Towards Men

In a training session that I facilitated recently, one of the participants works with a company that has a ratio of  60/40 female and male employees in terms of its total workforce.  However, I noticed that the ratio was reversed at 45/55 female and male employees in terms of senior officers.  No one would probably pay attention to these statistics but I was bothered by them.  What do the statistics mean?  The way I interpret these statistics is that the company failed miserably to take advantage of the same 60/40 ratio when it came to giving advancement opportunities to female employees.  The proof:  the ratio of female and male employees in terms of senior officers should have been somewhere near the 60/40 ratio of female and male employees in terms of total workforce, not the other way around.

Equal Employment Opportunities

Is it not that gender sensitivity also refers to providing equal employment opportunities to men and women?  It means that jobs that are normally stereotyped to be performed by only one gender can be performed by both sexes.  For example, female employees can be hired as warehouse personnel and male employees can be hired as nurses.

Many companies though, like my experience in an electronics company, prefer to hire a certain gender depending on the nature of the job.  Take the case of Production Operators.  This electronics company prefers to hire female Production Operators because the job requires dexterity, patience, and attention to details, qualities which the company found to be most present among women.
Gender Insensitive Practices

Talking of stereotyping men or women, how many of us have encountered a situation when a taxi or jeepney driver or a male friend would complain of tailing a slow-moving vehicle and the driver will suddenly blurt out, “Siguro babae ang driver niyan.”  (Perhaps the driver of that vehicle is a woman.)

In a television talk show that I watched, a guest said passionately to the host, “There are only 3 responsibilities of men toward women and these are what I refer to as 3Ps.  Profess your love, Protect your wife and your children, and Provide for your family’s needs.  So as far as I am concerned, every time my wife asks me to accompany her to the beauty parlor, I refuse.  That does not fall under my job description!”

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Male Chauvinism

Call such acts as male chauvinism but whatever it is, I think it is about time that we should be more gender-sensitive.

Various issues needing objective responses have to be brought out in the open to address gender sensitivity.  These are:

• Men work.  Women stay in the house and take care of the children.
• Males are preferred over females because they are not emotional.  When reprimanded, they do not cry, unlike women.
• When we think of Engineers and Technicians, we think of men.
• When we think of Nurses, we think of women.
• Men are better drivers than women.  Therefore, any kind of job that requires driving should be given to men.
• When tasks involve carrying heavy load or going up the top of buildings and structures, call men.
• When tasks involve routinary and boring functions, call women.
• Do not assign female employees in hazardous areas. They will not be able to be able to cope.  Or they will probably get into trouble.

In my view, it is high time that both men and women be more cognizant of the need to be more gender-sensitive not only in the workplace but in any environment.   Consider this article as the starting point towards such awareness.

(Ernie is the President of Human Resource (HR) Gabay Asia Pacific, Inc.  He is a Board Member for 2014-2016 of two of the largest international HR federations in the world, the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) where he was President in 2008-2010, and the Asia Pacific Federation of Human Resource Management (APFHRM) where he was President in 2007-2008 and 2012-2014. He was the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) President in 2002 and PMAP’s recipient of the People Manager of the Year Award in 2006.  He was Vice President HR of Energy Development Corporation and Fujitsu Computer Products Corporation of the Philippines.   He can be reached at [email protected])

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