It’s 2017 and people still scrutinize Serena Williams’ court fashion every match. Her job is to play tennis. She earns millions of dollars by being awesome. She’s a woman of color, and has been criticized for not smiling, for her eyebrows, and for not having a “perfect body”.
Everybody finally shut up after she won the Australian Open this year while pregnant.
But the average Filipina millennial’s life is not under that kind of spotlight. We just have our 9 to 5’s, our morning lattes, sweaty commutes, and that regular little struggle to avoid being sexually harassed for the week.
Women in the Philippines have been enjoying workplace equality; we don’t have a wage gap and hiring discrimination on the basis of gender. This is true for the corporate and office settings, where men and women tend to be on equal footing.
According to the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, the Philippines is the top country in East Asia to close the gender gap in terms of educational attainment and political empowerment. Equal pay and the recent extension of maternity leave benefits show that the law and statistics are mostly on our side, but sexism remains to be cultural.
These kinds of reports do not reflect the negative experiences that we tend to brush off. It doesn’t say anything about male co-workers wondering out loud why there are more females in the workplace these days, ergo more chismosas. Nothing about how mothers are making heartbreaking decisions between family and career day by day because working conditions—anywhere from benefits, to your average daily commute—are not favorable.
Every woman who has ever entered a room full of men feels intimidated. It feels like you’re held to a higher standard the moment you walk in the door. You can’t say anything too stupid for fear of being labeled an airhead. You can’t wear anything that can be construed as provocative because then you’re the office slut who can’t be taken seriously. On the other hand, if you’re too frumpy by anyone’s standard, you tend to worry about being the ugly one.
These worries are bigger-picture shallow, but these are still real things that men do not have to think about. While every employee looks to do a good job, women have to make sure that they are also “good women”.
So how can we beat sexist cultural defaults? Call it out. Because we aren’t in Mad Men.
When a co-worker, whether man or woman, makes a comment that reinforces antiquated ideals about women, we speak up. When we hear a ‘locker room joke’, we speak up. When we feel like we are getting the short end of the stick at work because of our gender, we speak up. Let’s not wait until a charismatic, ‘woke’ male figure mansplains it for us.
Women in the workplace should be implicitly looking out for each other in the presence of the implicit gender bias. Those in the higher rungs would do good by mentoring beginners. There’s always going to be a barrier because we are still a generation that was raised by believers in gender stereotypes.
Women in our country are filling in the jobs and now that we’re in, we can affect change to make the environment one of encouragement and empowerment. When you’re at work, the only thing you should be focused on is your job as an employee and not your job as a woman—whatever that is.
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