The Aboitiz Group affirmed its commitment to continue championing diversity and inclusion and workplace gender equality within its business units as part of its adherence to addressing Goal 5 (Gender Equality) and Goal 10 (Reduced Inequality) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Annacel Natividad, Chief Finance Officer and Risk Management Head for Pilmico Foods Corporation, represented the Aboitiz Group during the virtual Dive In Festival last September 21 to 23. Dive In is a global event originally launched by a group of firms in the Lloyd’s Market, as an initiative to support the development of inclusive workplace cultures. For this year’s festival, Natividad joined a panel discussion with other senior management of Asian companies, where she discussed the challenges of diversity and inclusion in the Philippines and the steps the Aboitiz Group has been taking to actively embed practices that support diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Natividad highlighted the progress of the Philippines in terms of workplace gender equality, citing the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE)’s notes on the country being consistently ranked as among the top 10 countries in the world for gender equality and inclusivity. However, Natividad cautions against complacency brought about by rankings without adequate practical application. “While there is a notion that since the Philippines is already regarded as a gender-equal country, many companies and business leaders think or express that gender equality, diversity, and inclusion is a good statement or disclosure to have. But the reality is, more companies need to be encouraged to really embed workplace gender equality and diversity and inclusion into their corporate sustainability and business strategies, as this will yield quantifiable and positive results in terms of attracting and sustaining the best talent in the market,” Natividad explained.
To support its employees as an ally in diversity and inclusion, the Aboitiz Group has rolled out changes and improvements in employee engagement programs, working schedules, compensation and benefits; shifting to virtual means for, and investing heavily in learning and development programs; and understanding multi-generational diversity and workplace gender equality through the Group’s REMIX program.
REMIX is the Aboitiz Group’s approach to ensuring the company adapts and thrives in the new multi-generational workforce. Through employee-led initiatives, open discussions, and the enthusiastic leadership of the Group’s President and Chief Executive Officer Sabin Aboitiz, the REMIX program has produced changes like flexible working schedules, tailored-to-the-employee benefits (“flexible benefits”), the inclusion of LGBTQ+ or common-law partners for medical benefits, a reverse mentoring program (where junior team members share their skills and expertise with senior management), among others.
“In this information age, employees are challenged—employers want a digital-savvy 22 to 26-year-old who has 30 years’ worth of working experience. REMIX offers proven strategies on how companies can adapt and win when they serve multi-generational needs. It is important that this early, we help prepare our Group for the organization of the future, and we start by understanding our greatest asset—our people—and help influence each other to drive workplace REMIXing,” said Natividad.
Since economic crises typically put a company’s diversity and inclusivity in jeopardy, Natividad emphasized the many benefits of continuing to promote it in the workplace despite the external challenges: increased profitability and creativity, stronger governance, better problem-solving activities, and increased resiliency and effectivity—all of which are a result of bringing employees with diverse backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives into an organization’s folds.
“Both Filipino workers and companies have experienced firsthand the exclusionary impacts of the pandemic. By developing best practices around diversity and inclusion during these unstable and uncertain economic times, businesses can be better placed to reap the rewards when the upswing arrives,” Natividad explained.
She also urged business leaders to see diversity and inclusion as an investment in the company’s and its employees’ futures. “Leaders should be willing to engage with diversity and inclusion to better prepare for the opportunities that will come in time. Not only is diversity and inclusion important for supporting workers during this time of uncertainty, but it will be key to leveraging opportunities when the risk and business landscape finally brightens.”