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Traditional gender roles may explain low participation of women in Philippine boardrooms, new ICD study reveals


The Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) recently held a forum entitled “Women on Boards” to discuss and enrich the results of a study on gender diversity in Philippine corporate boards. The forum was organized with assistance from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group. IFC supports the Institute in developing and delivering training to its members, providing consultations and organizing workshops for individual corporations, as well as developing publications and other products on corporate governance issues. 

The presentations at the forum showed that in 2014, women represented 10 percent of the board seats in about 250 publicly-listed companies in the Philippines. This is well within the range of ratios in Southeast Asian countries — much higher than those in Japan and South Korea, and lower than in several countries in Europe and North America. However, the Philippine ratio rose to 13.4 percent in 2016, and subsequently to 15.4 percent in 2017 — bringing it closer to the global average of around 17 percent. 

The ICD study, conducted in collaboration with the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and with support from ZMG Ward Howell, found that in a trend called ‘supply funneling,’ the number of women candidates seems to decrease at the upper rungs of the corporate ladder. This is because working women with families have to juggle their work with raising children and managing their home. Thus, fewer women reach the top executive positions and become available for nomination to board positions. 

Visibility is a key factor for board directorship. Family obligations and other factors reduce the ability of women to network and their chances at board matching. 

“The issue is deeper than a mere barrier or supply problem. There [It] is a lack of awareness of the complex interplay of socio-cultural and organizational elements that diminishes female professional mobility,” explains Oscar Bulaong, Jr., head of the AGSB research team. 

While a growing body of research shows that a broad set of business benefits is associated with gender diversity on corporate boards, Yuan Xu, IFC country manager for the Philippines, affirmed, “These include improved financial performance and shareholder value, increased customer and employee satisfaction, rising investor confidence, and greater market knowledge and reputation.” She added, “IFC is building capacity, raising awareness, and expanding the discussion about gender diversity on boards in developing countries.” 

According to Alfredo Pascual, ICD Chief Executive Officer: “Gender diversity matters. Women comprise half of the market, so it is essential that their views are heard in board-level decision making. The Philippines has to intensify efforts to promote gender diversity in boardrooms, but with like-minded institutions and other stakeholders working together to push this advocacy, having women on boards will soon become the norm rather than the exception.” 

IFC’s support for gender-smart business solutions includes working with companies in developing countries to generate opportunities for women that also contribute to bottom-line benefits. IFC’s corporate governance program in the Philippines is implemented in partnership with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland. 

About IFC 
IFC—a sister organization of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in the toughest areas of the world. In FY17, we delivered a record $19.3 billion in long-term financing for developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to help end poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit 


About ICD 
The Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) is a non-stock, not-for-profit organization dedicated to professionalizing corporate directorship and raising the corporate governance standards of the Philippines. The institute was established in 1999 by Chairman Emeritus Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis, to establish and promote higher corporate governance standards in the Philippines. ICD is part of the Centers for Excellence in Governance (CEG). For more information on ICD’s programs and services, visit 

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