August 2007
All about Eba

Favored as boys, disadvantaged as men

MOST children are closer to their mother because she spends more time with them. [photo by Jaileen F. Jimeno]

AS A young girl, Mercy Abad would be woken up every day before dawn, primarily because she had a long list of chores to go through. But decades later, what she remembers in particular is that while she and her two younger sisters were busy doing their assigned tasks, their brothers remained snug in bed, fast asleep. And when the boys woke up, “it was my job to fix their beds,” recalls Abad, adding that in most homes then, boys and men were “waited on hand and foot.”

In fact, it’s a situation that still exists in some form to this day; in most Filipino homes, boys have it easier than the girls, who tend to be given more responsibilities, including looking after younger siblings. Girls are also put under stricter forms of discipline, and likely to get an earful from breaking a curfew even as boys are cut some slack since “lalaki naman sila at walang mawawala sa kanila (they are male and have nothing to lose).”

But the boys may have been handed a double-edged sword: The “favored status” they enjoy in their formative years may weaken their ability to handle the demands of the home and the workplace in their grown-up years. Some observers now say this could help explain in part the growing dominance of women in the workplace, especially at levels where more money is made.

Recent data generated by the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) show that in 2006, about 2.26 million women were holding supervisory positions as against almost 1.63 million of men in the same level. The BLES study also reveals that in terms of numbers, men have been falling behind the women since 2002, when 1.4 million men were in supervisory positions as against 1.86 million women. In 2004, male bosses numbered some 1.61million while females occupying executive offices reached more than 2.16 million. (see table below)

Source: Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES)

2002 1.4 million 1.86 million
2004 1.613 million 2.162 million
2006 1.629 million 2.257 million

In the latest round of labor force surveys by BLES that was conducted last April, males also posted a higher unemployment rate (7.7 percent) compared to females (6.9 percent).

Economist Solita Monsod has observed that today no profession is closed to the Filipino woman “except…being a priest in the Roman Catholic Church.” Once allowed just an inch in the workplace half a century ago, women have since managed to ram a truck through that small crack — and have pretty much run over many of their male competitors.

“The writings on the wall are there,” says Mercy Abad. “Women are taking over. Our men are not prepared to compete with the women.”

And that may be partly because of how both genders were — and are being — brought up. Abad, now 66, says she even took a double whammy when it came to responsibilities because she is also the eldest in their brood. But she says that all those chores she had to take on as a young girl prepared her for the competitive corporate world, which was male-dominated when she started on her career. She has since carved a name for herself in the field of research and heads TNS-Global, one of the world’s leading market research and information groups.

Rita Linda Jimeno (no relation to this writer), a lawyer for two decades now and former president of the Philippine Bar Association, also says that while she and her two sisters are considered successful in their chosen fields, their three brothers are seen as “underachievers.” She adds, “I think it’s because they (the boys) were spoiled at home.”

IN THE olden days, when gender roles were simple — when men were hunters-gatherers and women were in charge of the hearth and home — men were allowed to take it easy at home because their work involved more physical risk and effort. But it seems that while women have managed to get one foot into the workplace in the ‘60s, pushed the door wide open in the ‘70s, and then scored more victories throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the raising of boys seemingly remains stuck in the hunting-gathering era in some households — to the detriment of the males later in life.

For sure, it may well be that the reason women are taking the lead in the modern workplace is simply because the jobs that are available need skills that are usually found more in females rather than in males. For example, women are seen as “more detail-oriented” while men are adept at looking at things from a macro perspective.

Then again, Abad says that in much of today’s workplaces, women are preferred over men simply because they are “more diligent and are less prone to absenteeism.” Project Y2001, a study on Filipino youth, also observed: “The cause of such female maturity may lie beyond biological reasons. It may be cultural.”

BOYS are given less chores than girls, which make it easier for females to adjust more easily to the demands of the workplace. [photo by Jaileen F. Jimeno]

The theory is that with the tendency to inflict more chores and discipline on women during their formative years, females are more mentally and emotionally prepared to take on more serious roles in the workplace. “In our training at home, we multi-task,” says Jimeno. “As grown-ups, we are able to make decisions faster than men do, and we are capable of balancing the demands of career and family.”

In the judiciary, for instance, female judges are credited for being organized and focused. And in a judicial system saddled with decades-old undecided cases, those traits could help speed up the turtle-paced legal process.

Lapses in judgment by women judges can also be considered to be low compared to those by the men. From 1999 to 2004, a total of 587 male judges were penalized for various infractions, as against 93 female judges. Broken down into percentages with the 2001 and 2004 figures of bench appointments as baseline, it’s a low of 24.3 percent to a high of 34.78 percent for females. For males, the comparative statistics are a low of 51.3 percent and a high of 54.75 percent.

Male lawyers themselves credit it to women being perceived as more upright, “mahirap lapitan” (difficult to approach), and their adherence to an unwritten code that forbids judges to socialize too much lest they be approached by litigants and defendants.

“Women are more diligent, they have less distraction, while men drink and socialize more,” observes Jimeno. This focus, she says, allows women to dispose of or terminate cases faster.

Not surprisingly, more and more women are being appointed to the bench. Although men still dominate the judiciary, with a total of 1,072 male justices and judges in 2004 (or three-fourths of the country’s salas), the number of female judges has been rising. In 2001, there were 276 females occupying the bench, from the Municipal Circuit Trial Court up to the Supreme Court. By 2004, there were 382 female magistrates.

Jimeno also predicts that in a few years, the legal profession will be dominated by women. She says that at the University of the Philippines College of Law, only one-third of students are males; the rest are females. “I cannot say if it’s (a) good or bad trend,” she says, but reiterates that women could be gaining more positions in courts and law firms because of the way they were raised.

ABAD, MEANWHILE, doesn’t contest the notion that Filipino men are “babied” from cradle to grave. She has trouble, however, in accepting that this is endemic to the Filipino culture alone.

“Don’t blame us (Filipinos), we did not invent it,” she says. “Worldwide, the preference is males.” She points out that this can be gleaned in countries like Italy, in one-child-per-family China, and in India, where there have been numerous cases of women terminating their pregnancies if the unborn child is female.

In any case, the “favored status” of boys also came up in Project Y2001, which was commissioned by the Global Filipino Foundation and the Ateneo de Manila University. Done in 2001, the study even warned: “Spoiled in their teens, they may not grow up into responsible fathers.” (See sidebar) It then advised the Jesuits, who run the Ateneo, to “review and re-direct traditions and beliefs” in bringing up boys to curb the number of those who grow up as “spoiled brats.” (Ateneo’s grade school and high school divisions remain exclusively for boys.)

NFO-Trends, an independent research group, did the study. Over the course of three weeks, it interviewed 1,420 males and females aged seven to 21 from all economic classes nationwide. About 47 percent of the interviewees were male while the rest were female.

Project Y2001’s results validated the stereotype that boys are more favored than girls in the Filipino household. Males have fewer responsibilities while females take on more duties and responsibilities at home, it said. The boys enjoy more freedom from parental control while the girls are cocooned, as parents are more strict and protective of them. While the boys spend more time with their barkada or peers after school, the girls tend to keep to the school-home route, with no other destination in between. Not surprisingly, the study reaffirmed findings of previous researches that girls mature ahead of the boys, who tend to be more playful. It added that the males are irreverent while females are more concerned with pleasing their parents. The pampered males are usually given tasks that are short-term in nature while the females are assigned responsibilities that require patience and focus.

“Girls are trained to be surrogate homemakers by taking care of their younger siblings, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, cleaning the house, cooking and marketing,” reported Project Y2001. “The boys are assigned fewer responsibilities which are usually those expected of a male, such as gardening, feeding the pets, fetching water and running errands.” (The study did cite two high school boys from upper-class families in Metro Manila who said the chores assigned to them would help them become independent grownups.)

The arrangement is apparently not accepted wholeheartedly by all the girls. Grumbled one female interviewee who was a high school senior at the time of the study: “Kami raw ang babae, so, kami ang magtrabaho sa bahay (They say we should handle the domestic chores because we are girls).” Yet while it could be expected that just 49 percent of the boys said it is okay for them to do housework, only 58 percent of the girls gave the proposal a thumbs up.

Interestingly, many of the boys appeared territorial when it came to tasks that are considered “manly.” While 33 percent of the girls said they would want to learn woodwork and carpentry at school, only 18 percent of the boys gave the suggestion a nod. About 18 percent of the girls also wanted to be encouraged to be electricians, plumbers, or car mechanics, but only 13 percent of the boys supported the idea.

ANOTHER PROJECT Y2001 finding that could help explain the weakening grip of males on many jobs is that females are more academically inclined than the males. According to the study, too, while the combined responses from the girls and boys yielded lack of finances (61 percent) as the biggest reason for quitting school, among the top factors cited by male respondents were lack of interest (23 percent) and non-acceptance, poor academic performance, and bad conduct (nine percent). For females, the most common reason for not continuing their education was because they were either getting married or had gotten pregnant (23 percent).

Five years later, here’s the BLES study pointing to one big factor that shrink most of our men’s chances at juicy positions in the workplace: education. Only ten percent, or one out of 10 employed Filipino men finished college, while 20 percent of employed Filipino women did, it says. Aside from that, of the 12.8 million women working in 2006, 32.8 percent had some college education, or one in three. Meantime, of the 20.156 million men employed, only one out of five reached college.

Mercy Abad says she is thankful that while the norm for girls in her generation was to go to finishing school (in preparation for marriage) right after high school, her educated parents worked hard so that all six of their children, daughters and sons alike, could earn college degrees.

Abad says there is one currently developing factor that may somehow change the environment in which boys and girls are raised: the dwindling number of households with maids. She says a recent survey by TNS-Global shows that only 10 percent of Filipino homes today have household help, down from the previous 80 percent.

“Good household helps are now hard to come by, so boys and men are now given assignments in managing the household,” she comments. And with the advent of washing machines and other tools that make housework easier, many parents simply abandon the search for maids and require family members to pitch in and help with the chores.

Abad also says, “Women are now more assertive. The girlfriends train their boyfriends to lessen their dependence on women. Some even have prenuptial agreements on household chore assignments.”

And that, she says, is a far cry from the experience of the women from her generation who “relied on novenas or simply suffered silently,” waiting for their husbands to grow up and mature – hopefully before their children did.