on the philippine corporate SOGIE diversity and inclusiveness index 2018

Manila, 12 November—I finally got my hands on a copy of this report by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, thanks to project coordinator Evan Tan. (Aside: Evan and I go way back, and when I say ‘way back’ I mean Grade One Way Back. How fortunate for our paths to cross again some two decades later, and to bond over this, in particular.)

Anyway.

The report, which launches the Corporate SOGIE Diversity and Inclusiveness (CSDI) Index, is the first of its kind in the country, and was funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in the Philippines. SOGIE stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression.

I can imagine how hard it must be to obtain data about the LGBTQIAP+ community here in the Philippines, so this study by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce does fill a necessary data gap. In fact, that is its primary goal: To establish a quantitative baseline SOGIE CSDI Index across top corporations and small and medium enterprises.

Why is there need for a baseline for this particular Index among companies? Because it is high time we look at how companies are treating their LGBTQIAP+ work force in terms of comprehensive policies, benefits and practices. And hopefully, out of this data, we can work together to craft programs toward more inclusive workplaces.

A total of 100 companies participated in this inaugural CSDI Index. The survey, which employed a mix of telephone interviews and self-administered online questionnaires, was conducted from July to September this year. Participants were a mix of Philippine-based and foreign-headquartered companies who were engaged in BPO/BPS, tech, food and beverage, energy, and financial services industries, to name a few.

A quick note on methodology

As a survey junkie, I like spending some time in the methodology section of any survey, because I can relate very much with the hardship of these researchers, field workers and writers. Data collection is not for the faint of heart, and respondent recruitment is definitely one of the most challenging parts of any study.

Though it made me sad, I was not surprised at all to read that potential interviewees had been hesitant to participate in the study, and many needed assurance that their participation would be anonymous because they felt that their participation may pose ‘reputational risks’ for their respective companies.

This makes me so mad because these days, we have seen a good number of ads specifically targeted at LGBTQIAP+ consumers. We even celebrated the election of the first transgender congressional representative in 2016. We witnessed a record-breaking Pride March just last June.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. When this group set out to contact a thousand of the country’s top corporations, the limited response forced them to open the study and relax their qualifications to include SMEs.

At least, now we have an initial study to build upon in the years to come. Kudos and congratulations are due, for the Chamber, the Embassy and Cogencia.

Notes/side comments on some topline results

  • Less than one in every five (17 percent) said their company’s employment opportunity policy or employee handbook/manual contained anti-discrimination policies that include the terms ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’, and/or ‘gender expression’. All of them are foreign-headquartered organizations and are from the BPO/BPS industry. A whopping 57% replied with an outright ‘No.’ As in, if you Ctrl+F’d their employee handbooks, you would not find the terms ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’, and/or ‘gender expression’ in their anti-discrimination policy. At all.

    Why? Some reasons mentioned by stakeholders and experts from key LGBTQIAP+ organizations:

    1. Needs of LGBTQIAP+ employees are not urgent and not prioritized because they comprise only a small minority of companies’ workforce

    2. Companies fear that having anti-discrimination policies and inclusive benefits may cause them to lose market share and customers, considering that the Philippines is a “conservative country”

    3. Corporate culture in the Philippines is generally still heteronormative

    4. As long as government and labor regulations do not include SOGIE policies, companies will not be inclined to change their policies.

  • Around three in every five respondents (59%) said their company is NOT working on creating such policies. The rest (41%) either do not know or are not sure. Bleak.

  • Around two in every five respondents (41%) said their LGBTQIAP+ employees have NOT reached out to management to request such policies. The rest (59%) either do not know or are not sure. I think this is a chicken-and-egg problem: Why would I approach management and potentially out myself if I’m not sure whether they would be receptive? Outlook: Also bleak.

  • When asked if their companies have conducted any educational discussions or trainings and workshops on SOGIE, 69% of respondents said NO. Outlook: Still bleak.

  • However, 43% of those surveyed said they keep track of SOGIE-based incidents in the workplace—however, there is ambiguity on how ‘SOGIE-based’ is defined in the tracking of such incidents. Outlook: Masaya na sana ako, pero hindi pa rin pala.

  • Three in every five (75%) said their companies do NOT have employee engagement surveys where employees can voluntarily and anonymously disclose their gender identity and sexual orientation along with other demographic questions, such as religion and gender. Outlook: This survey would have been fun to fill out, if ever.

  • While 72% said their businesses did NOT have an officially recognized LGBTQIAP+ employee group, four in every five (80%) said their companies would ALLOW LGBTQIAP+ employees to use their facilities and resources to form said group if one expressed interest. Outlook: Go na mga bes!!!!

  • Over four in every five (82%) said their company’s insurance contracts did not include same-sex partners. Not a surprise. This would have been useful to me. Would friends in the insurance industry be open to crafting insurance programs specifically for non-heterosexual partnerships? We’d really, really like that. Outlook: Kailangan ng tulong.

  • More than half (51%) of respondents said their companies have NOT engaged in marketing or advertising to the LGBTQIAP+ community. ‘Pinkwashing’ or the use of a variety of marketing and political strategies to promote brands or products by appealing to LGBTQIAP+-friendliness in order to be perceived as progressive, modern and tolerant, is not cool. Outlook: Oh my God Bimb, I remember so many people/companies.

End notes

For other insights I have failed to highlight here, please have a read through yourself and download the CSDI Index from the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce website here.

That said, I really enjoyed going through this study—for the first time, I felt truly seen as a member of the community. I’ve mentioned how difficult it is to find LGBTQIAP+-specific data, and I am happy to see that this study exists, and that this at least talks about us and our concerns. And thank you so much for referencing Ms Enriquez’s report! I hope I can find a copy of that too for my personal appreciation. :)

Anyway, I am pretty sure that the Chamber is already gearing up for the succeeding iteration, and I already see lots of follow-up opportunities to explore. For instance, there is an opportunity to zero in on specific companies who released marketing and advertising material, whether traditional or online, specifically targeted to the LGBTQIAP+ market. There is an opportunity to make them accountable for these very public displays of ‘affection’ for the community ;)

I also mentioned to Evan that a lot of smaller businesses are powered by LGBTQIAP+ entrepreneurs. I hope they can be ‘seen’, too—if not in this Index, in another study altogether. We are starved for data and stories. Also, as a lesbian consumer, I would like to know which businesses are LGBTQIAP+-powered so I can support them when I have the chance. Maybe a database by the community, for the community? To illustrate: I think an LGBTQIAP+ business producing LGBTQIAP+-friendly products and services would like to be assured that their suppliers are “safe” and community-friendly, too.

Lastly, I understand that the Chamber is going for impact in targeting the country’s Top 1000 companies as ranked by BusinessWorld—and rightly so. The opening salvo needs to be as ambitious as possible. Guided by the initial information gathered from this groundbreaking maiden edition, maybe it would also be worthwhile to target a smaller, more specific pool of respondents—maybe specific industries, like Media and Advertising. I’m also interested to know how this study would play out along regional areas or urban/rural divides, if ever.

Ang daldal ko, haha. In all, I’m just excited about what this study is, and what it could be in the years to come. Kudos once again to the hardworking teams that produced it. Looking forward to the next one! :)