Embracing diversity and inclusion across industries
Our continuously evolving society calls for a better understanding and appreciation of diversity and inclusion (D&I), not only in workplaces, but also in schools, organizations, governments, among others. While a discussion on D&I may span across a plethora of topics, in a nutshell, we can first try and understand diversity as "who's at work" - who is recruited, hired and promoted by a company, organization and the like. It is, in essence, a representation as to the diverse set of people having different traits and characteristics in a certain community. On the other hand, inclusion is basically how such diverse set of people are treated and how they feel in a community. It revolves around the idea of whether employees feel valued, respected, and accepted in the organization.
The D&I forum held by the Licensing Executives Society Philippines (LESP) last 6 February 2020, a trail-blazing one as it was the first time for LESP to embark on such topic, involved various discussions on D&I as it cuts across industries.Among the guest speakers were Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL)'s Deputy Director General Nelson Laluces, Quisumbing Torres' Partner and D&I Committee Head Alain Charles Veloso, Thomson Reuters' D&I Lead Marla Garin-Alvarez, and Philippine Financial and Inter-Industry Pride's Leadership Team Chris Eugenio.
Starting things off, Charles introduced the concept of D&I and its application in the business environment and in the legal profession. Charles shared some of the D&I best practices at Quisumbing Torres, which include an active D&I committee, non-discriminatory hiring, support for working parents, firm target to include more women and non-binary individuals in the firm's top management, and inclusion of same-sex partners in the firm's employee healthcare plan.
Next, Deputy Director-General Laluces delivered his keynote message regarding the D&I initiatives in the IPOPHL, which he mentioned is part of the office's continuing thrust to democratize intellectual property. He touted the "Juana Make a Mark" initiative, which specifically encourages women-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to register trademarks at a reduced cost. He noted that there was a higher number of trademarks filed coming from Filipino MSMEs ever since the introduction of the initiative. The success of "Juana Make a Mark" has led to its expansion into patents and utility models (Juana Invent), and industrial design (Juana Design).He also highlighted other D&I initiatives in the IPOPHL, including Men Opposed to Violence against Women Everywhere (MOVE) and addressing accessibility issues at the office specifically for senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Meanwhile, Marla discussed how diversity improves the performance of a business by attracting and retaining talent. She mentioned that having diverse management resulted in better risk avoidance and corporate governance. She also discussed the five main dimensions of diversity in the Philippines and the challenges faced under each: gender, culture, generations, disability, and LGBTQ+. She posed the challenge to transcend stereotypes based on the categories under each dimension and to continue advocating for D&I everywhere possible, especially at work and in schools.
Chris followed Marla's discussion by introducing the specific challenges faced by LGBTQ+ Filipinos, as well as the measures that can be taken in the workplace by both management and workplace allies to promote their well-being and to avoid discrimination. He noted that the mainstreaming of LGBTQ+-inclusive policies is mainly due to the efforts of multinational companies operating in the Philippines. Local companies have gradually adopted such policies. He stressed, however, that no real progress can be made until a law protecting the sexual orientation, gender identity and expression of LGBTQ+ Filipinos is passed.
A lively open forum followed the talk, with discussions on how to balance diversity with competing business interests in a firm, changing norms in traditional professions such as law and finance, the sustainability of D&I initiatives cascaded from the national government, and ensuring that D&I does not stop at the office but becomes an everyday advocacy.