26 March 2020 – The Makati Business Club, alongside UN Women WeEmpower Asia and the Delegation of European Union in the Philippines, hosted an online forum with executives representing multinational firms to discuss the challenges faced by women in their workforce and supply chain — which have been highlighted by COVID-19 — and the different measures that companies have put in place to address them.

Women are serving in the frontline in our COVID-19 battle. They are also vulnerable because they make a disproportionate part of the informal and contractual workforce, and a lot of women are running small enterprises that are hit hard by this crisis” says MBC executive director, Coco Alcuaz. He adds, “The COVID-19 crisis intensifies and highlights many issues faced by women.”

In the context of COVID-19, the business executives shared several practices adopted before and during the crisis to help the growth and keep their employees secure. For instance, Supriya Singh, country manager of L’Oreal Philippines, take this time to provide online courses to its salesforce and partners who currently cannot work or open shop

UBS Philippines country head, Robrina Go, highlighted UBS’ efforts not just to fulfill its role in keeping the country’s financial operations active but to also identify liquidity issues of the marginalized, especially women. On the other hand, Zalora CEO, Paulo Campos, shared their initiatives to support their women stakeholders, which captures a large percentage of both customers and platform sellers. 

Lizanne Uychaco, EVP at SM Investment Corporation, shared that SM has assured employee compensation during the lockdown, rent abatements for tenants many of whom are SMEs, and shifting more transactions online to continue its service to people. 

Pilipinas Shell’s Mr. Cesar Romero shared their company policies to promote gender balance and inclusivity in their workforce from retirement to promotions but also highlighted their commitment to diversity in general, not just in gender. 

Participants shared their concerns over rebuilding the private sector after surpassing COVID-19.  Katja Freiwald of UN Women WeEmpower Asia challenges the audience by asking “how we [can] use this as an opportunity” as “there is a risk to go backwards if we don’t handle this crisis in a gender-sensitive way”