The SOGIE Equality Bill is still in the process of getting passed, but LGBTQ+ advocates aren’t stopping their call for anti-discrimination policies and the protection of their rights. This is of utmost importance in public spaces like the workplace.
While the Philippines ranked among the most gay-friendly countries in the world, plus the notion that we are accepting of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, this doesn’t reflect in several companies. According to the Philippine Corporate SOGIE Diversity & Inclusiveness Index 2018 by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which surveyed 100 companies, only 17 percent of them have policies against discrimination based on SOGIE. All of these are BPO/BPS companies and foreign-headquartered organizations.
Here’s the sad part: The Philippine-based companies interviewed scored zero in the survey. Take note that the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce interviewed 52 companies under this category, which is the highest number in their participant list.
Researcher Paulo Edrosolano provided insight on the matter, saying that advocacy groups feel that companies don’t prioritize SOGIE-inclusive policies because of various factors. “First, they think that the needs of the LGBTQIAP+ employees are not urgent and not prioritized because they comprise only a small fraction of the company’s workforce,” he said. Additionally, he noted that not every company knows the exact demographic of the workforce, but this is still a plausible reason.
Paulo continued with points that companies may fear that such policies might “cause them to lose market share and customers, considering that the Philippines is a “conservative country.” In relation to this, corporate culture in the Philippines is said to be generally heteronormative. The last reason is that companies don’t feel compelled to change their policies if the government doesn’t put SOGIE-inclusive policies in place.
“A company doesn’t need a law or a bill to tell them what to do if they really want to do things well,” said Brian Tenorio, chair and founder of The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “I think bills and laws are there for people who need protection, who are refused protection by their companies and employees. But if you want to do the right thing and be profitable, you don’t need the SOGIE Bill to do so.”
Brian also brought up the issue of “pinkwashing” in the Philippines, which is the “practice of a state or company presenting itself as gay-friendly and progressive, in order to downplay their negative behavior.” Because, undeniably, there are PH-based brands and companies out there that say they are allies, but it’s not really clear if they have policies that protects the rights of LGBT workers.
“If you’re gonna market to the LGBT, you should support your employees,” Brian emphasized.
Despite the zero score, Philippine-based companies still have time to redeem themselves. According to the study, while majority of the companies (51 percent) said they aren’t working on creating such policies at the moment, there are 15 percent of them who are working with external LGBTQIAP+ organizations. There are also companies that hold SOGIE talks and gender sensitivity training with employees, but only a small amount (6 percent).
What’s the next step to make it better? Paulo suggested that companies should refine their anti-discrimination and harassment policies, especially to keep track of incidents within the company. As of now, 43 percent say they do it, but they’re not exclusively SOGIE-based incidents. They should also proactively promote SOGIE inclusiveness and provide the necessary benefits for same-sex partners, among other things.
The number is discouraging, but it should also motivate employers to do better. The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce launched the #Zeroto100PH campaign to urge more companies to set SOGIE-inclusive policies by 2019. Hopefully by then the SOGIE Equality Bill has been passed as well.
What do you think? Do the results bother you or encourage you to continue the fight for LGBT rights?
Art by Marian Hukom
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