In the business of diversity
An organization that’s “more heart than hands”—that’s the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce as succinctly described by its chair, shoe designer Brian Tenorio.
While still in its infancy—its incorporation is set to happen within the month—the LGBT Chamber, for the past two years, has been actively organizing events to fulfill its primary purpose: To help more businesses craft policies for a gender-diverse and -inclusive workplace.
“In our talks, we discuss pink-baiting, or how some companies would launch advertisements for the LGBT market to get them to buy their stuff, but don’t have LGBT policies in their offices,” says Tenorio.
“I think [there is lack of policy] because a lot of Filipino corporations are family-owned, and the board, therefore, is usually composed of just family members, and the values of the family are what they follow,” he adds. “Not that there’s anything wrong with being a religious family, for example; that’s great. But a more diverse board would create more policies better appropriated for diversity.”
One of the events the chamber held last month is the Sogie (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression) Executive Session, or SES, a 30-minute forum which gathered over 70 business leaders.
Headed by the chamber’s vice chair for education and research, GMA Artist Center assistant vice president Simoun Ferrer, the group introduced to C-level executives what Tenorio calls “the new gender landscape” through the four Ws of Sogie: what you have; which you have; the way you are; and who you are attracted to.
“We thought, we need a way to explain Sogie to leaders; there has to be an executive summary form. These people have less time and have different concerns,” says Tenorio.
The first W, What you have, pertains to one’s anatomy, says Tenorio.
“If you have a mix of both male and female parts, you are called intersex. Because of the inclusion of intersex, then you understand that it’s not nature vs nurture; sometimes, it’s just nature. It’s not your fault if, for example, you have male parts but lack the hormones,” he says.
The second, Which you have, refers to one’s gender identity.
“Which gender do you identify with? That’s where this comes in—are you a man in a female’s body, or a female in a man’s body?,” he says.
Then there is the Way you are, or your gender expression. According to Tenorio, not everyone who dresses like a woman is a woman, “biologically, in the head, and in the heart.”
The last W, Who you are attracted to, also defines one’s sexuality, says Tenorio, meaning you could be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.
The SES was held by the LGBT Chamber together with the Embassy of the Netherlands in the Philippines on the eve of IDAHOTB, or the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Alongside that event, the chamber announced its plan to publish the first Corporate SOGIE Diversity Index (CSDI), which will survey 500 Filipino companies on their diversity policies and benchmark those against that of the global business scene.
The index is set to be released in October, says Tenorio. “There are a lot of international organizations that have very good policies for LGBT, but in Philippine corporations, I don’t hear about it so much.”
Aside from talks, the chamber’s other events include the Emerging LGBT Leaders Program, a workshop for young LGBT leaders, and Pride in Business, a series of networking mixers.
Recently, the LGBT chamber joined coworking space Impact Hub Manila’s regular FuckUp Night events through a talk titled LGBT x Tech.
There, successful LGBT individuals working in the tech industry talked about their failures, and how they overcame these, to be where they are today.
Tenorio says that the chamber’s board members, which include Amrei Dizon, founder, general manager and creative director of digital content production company Vitalstrats Creative Solutions; Angel Romero, partner and director for creative marketing of Kapuwa Bistro + Urban Pub; Jeoff Solas, Anchor Land Holdings PR manager; and Evan Tan, cofounder and chief marketing officer of end-to-end online tax assistance platform Taxumo, are all working as volunteers for the organization.
What unifies them, he says, is their call for diversity, and the mission to create more LGBT leaders in society—especially in business.
“One of the best things I saw on our Facebook page was a guy who posted, ‘Thank you po sa ginagawa ninyo. At least alam namin na pwede pala maging head ng negosyo o kumpanya kahit gay, lesbian.’ (Thank you for what you are doing. At least we know now that one can head a company even if he or she is gay or lesbian.),” says Ternorio. “It’s important that we highlight not just LGBTs who are in business, but also LGBT leaders in business,” Tenorio says.
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