August 01, 2008

Having it all...or not

Something Like Life
July 25, 2008

WHEN I was studying at De La Salle (go Green Archers! yay!), there was one forum I attended where the administration discussed how it was trying to decide whether or not it should raise the quota on female students. In those days—this was around 1984 or 1985—the quota on female students, if I recall correctly, was about 30 percent to the 70-percent male population. There were also suggestions that maybe the quota should be done away with altogether.

But there were many alumni and administration officials who were against raising the female quota or even removing it, because they feared that females would just overrun the student population. Well, what’s so wrong with that, you may ask? Well, De La Salle had always been, traditionally, a “boys’ school.” If it wanted more women around, the male students only had to look to its neighbor over at St. Scholastica’s. The time I was at De La Salle, other less savory colleges were already razzing us that our university was turning into a girls’ school. Not only was it being inundated by female applicants, but the girls were also excelling and getting better grades than the men! (Sorry, guys, aminin na natin.)

I don’t know if the male-female quota of De La Salle still exists, but the latest MasterCard Worldwide Index on Women’s Advancement seems to prove the point that if given the choice and opportunity, Filipino women will want to pursue tertiary education. And as they get better-educated, they are more likely to enter the work force and compete with each other and with men.

According to the findings, as announced by Georgette Tan, MasterCard Worldwide vice president for communications in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, in the recent Global Summit of Women, while Malaysians seem to have more women in college than men (at 135 women to 100 men), Filipinos are not so far behind with 116 women in the universities, as against 100 men!

The latest survey also demonstrated that positive sentiment remained strong among Filipino women, who perceived themselves as “almost equal” to their male counterparts in terms of position and influence in the workplace, as well as salary.

The MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement measures the socioeconomic level of women in relation to men using four key indicators: the ratio of female to male participation in the labor force, ratio of female to male in tertiary education, and survey data that measures female and male respondent perceptions of whether they hold managerial positions and whether they earn above-median income.

Considering all these, the Philippines actually edged out Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and eight other markets in the Asia-Pacific region in having the highest overall index score. This means that we Filipino women are receiving better education, working more outside of the home and moving into more managerial positions, and, yes, even earning more than some of our male counterparts in similar jobs or occupations.

But—and that’s a big but (and, no, I’m not talking about our rear ends)—all these index scores have been dropping for two straight years. Explained Georgette: “While women continue to close the gap in achieving parity with men in the areas of labor-force participation and tertiary education, women’s self-perception regarding the subjective factors of the index—managerial positions and above-median income—have continued to dip for the second year in a row. This appears to indicate that women are feeling less confident about their current status, and whether on account of the economic, political or social landscape, the direct result is that men’s confidence and resulting advancement is increasing to fill the gaps.”

She added: “As women continue to enter the labor force and seek tertiary education, new avenues are opened up for their employment and their careers. However, in 2008 it appears that women continue to perceive themselves as not receiving the same opportunities as men. This, combined with the shifting economic climate, has negatively affected the scores pertaining to the self-perception of women, resulting in a lower MasterCard Worldwide Index of Women’s Advancement score.”

I personally think this perception goes to the fact that women are just becoming too aggressive these days in wanting everything. They want to be CEOs and yet want to be good mothers and perfect wives. This adds to the strain on their relationships with their families. And when their jobs don’t allow them the leeway to achieve these personal goals as well, they feel less confident of themselves and their abilities.

In the past years or so, I’ve known a few women who have already dropped out of the rat race giving up senior management positions in favor of their families. Like it or not, the burden of rearing children traditionally still falls on the mother, and no matter how many househusbands are produced, it is still the mother who will have a much larger influence on the children. That is one traditional role, I think, women are not so willing to abdicate, and, in fact, resent it when their husbands or other males (even other females) in the family start becoming the one the children run to.

Women have come a long way from the time of our mothers and grandmothers. We can choose to be anything we want to be. Go anywhere we want to go. But perhaps it is time to sit back a bit and realize that we cannot do everything.

In allowing ourselves to be smarter than men, and competing to get the best jobs and the better careers, something will suffer. We will have to sacrifice certain areas where we have long dominated in the past. It is the only way for us to break through that so-called “glass ceiling” to the higher-paying jobs and the fancier titles. Question is: Are we willing to do that?

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday, in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photo from BM.)

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(Sorry guys, have been remiss in my blogging due to unavailibity of a computer. Anyhoo, regular entries start today. Thanks for your patience.)

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