Rose Kenerson, Associate
Paul Hastings (New York)

For the past 25 years, the Philippines has succeeded in implementing measures to address gender parity.  As a result, the Philippines boasts one of the highest percentages of women sitting on corporate boards in Asia, with 10.9% of board seats currently occupied by women.1

A 2017 report published by Grant Thornton ranked the Philippines third globally (together with Estonia and Poland) for the highest percentage of senior management positions occupied by women.2 With 40% of senior management positions held by women, the Philippines trailed only Indonesia and Russia, which had 46% and 47% respectively. 

In addition, a November 2014 report from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) recognized 50 Asian companies for their work in encouraging and creating economic opportunities for women.3  Of the 50 companies, six were from the Philippines.  Finally, the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report ranked the Philippines tenth out of 144 countries; it was the only Asian country to rank in the top ten.4 

2017 Rank Country 2016 Rank5
1 Iceland 1
2 Norway 3
3 Finland 2
4 Rwanda 5
5 Sweden 4
6 Nicaragua 10
7 Slovenia 8
8 Ireland 6
9 New Zealand 9
10 Philippines 7

As an assessment of how 144 countries divide resources and opportunities among men and women, the Global Gender Gap Report measures the gender inequality gap in the following areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.  The report indicated that the Philippines had succeeded in closing 79% of its overall gender gap.6  All of these rankings indicate continued growth in promoting women and a willingness to address female empowerment in the workplace.

Philippine Legislation on Women

Some of this progress  can be attributed to the ratification of human rights treaties and the passing of legislation aimed at fighting discrimination.  For example, the Philippines ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a core international human rights treaty, in August 1981.7  The Constitution itself also addresses equality in the Declaration of Principles and State Policies in Article II by recognizing the role of women in nation-building and ensuring the fundamental equality of women and men before the law.8  The Constitution further addresses women in the workplace by mandating that, “[t]he State shall protect working women by providing safe and healthful working conditions, taking into account their maternal functions, and such facilities and opportunities that will enhance their welfare and enable them to realize their full potential in the service of the nation.”9

Support of gender equality can be found in other pieces of legislation as well.  Passed by the Philippine legislature in 2009, the Magna Carta of Women recognizes and defines the rights of women.10  It also places the burden on the State to ensure equality of men and women, promote the empowerment of women, and attempt to eliminate discrimination against women in accordance with CEDAW. 

The Magna Carta also aimed at increasing the participation of women in decision-making and policy-making processes in government by mandating that the number of women in third level positions in government achieve a fifty-fifty gender balance by 2014 and requiring at least 40% female membership of all development councils at the regional, provincial, city, municipal, and barangay11 levels.  Despite this mandate, the Philippine Commission on Women (the “Commission”) noted in August 2018 that this gender balance was still being pursued.12 

To assess the progress of the Magna Carta, government agencies and local government districts conduct monitoring and submit their findings in annual progress reports to the Commission, which then submits a report to Congress every three years.  In 2012, the Commission issued its circular to the Philippine Congress on the implementation of the Magna Carta and its impact on the status and human rights of women in the Philippines.13  The circular gave additional detailed guidelines for continued implementation of the Magna Carta.

Aside from the Magna Carta, other significant legislation addressing equality includes the Women in Development and Nation Building Act.14  Published in 1992, the Act promotes the integration of women in development and nation building by providing for equal rights in entering into contracts and loan agreements and joining social and cultural clubs.  

The Labor Code of the Philippines, amended in 1989, also seeks to prohibit discrimination against women in employment and promote additional training opportunities for them.  Finally, the Act Strengthening the Prohibition on Discrimination Against Women with Respect to Terms and Conditions of Employment also addresses discrimination.  It even imposes criminal liability on those who pay lesser compensation to female employees than male employees for equal work, as well as those who favor a male employee over a female employee for promotions, training opportunities, study, and scholarship based on gender.15  Although the Philippine government has yet to implement legislation with mandatory quotas for female representation, these laws represent its willingness to address the issue in other ways.

Code of Corporate Governance

Despite the implementation of several laws, the current Code of Corporate Governance (the “Code”) does not specifically address female representation on corporate boards of private companies.  In 2002, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission approved the implementation of the Code, which empowers the board of directors to hold primary responsibility for corporate governance.16  Most recently updated in 2016, the Code places restrictions on the structure of the board as an independent check on management.  For example, the boards of public companies must have at least two independent directors or 20% of the board, whichever is the lesser.  Despite provisions such as this one, however, the Code does not contain a provision specific to the empowerment of women to these positions.  Instead, the Code calls for boards to create policies on diversity that address not only gender diversity, but also diversity on the basis of age, ethnicity, culture, skills, etc.17  The Code does not place any goal or mandatory quota on the board. 

Non-Governmental Initiatives

Although the Philippines boasts one of the higher percentages of female representation on corporate boards in Asia at 10.9%18 and a 2018 study revealed that women make up 46.2% of the workforce,19 there are still many women who have no access to employment opportunities due to more fundamental issues pervading Philippine society.  Many women live in poverty, with human trafficking and violence against women exacerbating the issue.20  As a result, many non-governmental and governmental programs focus on alleviating these issues, as opposed to promoting female empowerment in the corporate setting.  


The Philippines is the 13th most populous country in the world,21 with an annual growth rate of 1.57%22 and an unemployment rate estimated at 15% in 2017.23  As of 2018, the female unemployment rate was less than the male unemployment rate and women had a slightly higher literacy rate over men.24

Given that the Philippines is still a developing country, the macroeconomic situation has a strong influence on economic opportunities for women.  The legislation in place promoting women’s positions in society has aided in eliminating  discrimination, but remains constrained by current economic conditions.  Despite this, the fact that the Philippines has historically been a matriarchal society, coupled with the government’s willingness to address gender discrimination issues, could contribute to more women holding corporate board seats in the future.

1 Women in the boardroom: A global perspective, Deloitte (2017),

2 Women in business: New perspectives on risk and reward, Grant Thornton (Mar. 2017),

3 50 Leading Companies for Women in APEC, APEC (Nov. 2014),

4 The Global Gender Gap Report (2017), World Economic Forum (2017),

5 Global Gender Gap Report (2016), World Economic Forum,

6 World Economic Forum, supra note 4.

7 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, U.N. Treaty Collection, (last visited Apr. 9, 2018).  

8 See Const. art. II, § 14 (1987) (Phil.) (“The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.”).

9 Const. art. XIII, § 14.

10 Magna Carta of Women, Rep. Act No. 9710 (Sept. 15, 2009) (Phil.).

11 Barangay is the smallest local government unit in the Philippines, similar to a district.

12 PCW Presents 9 Gains as Nation Celebrates 9th Anniversary of Magna Carta Women, Philippine Commission on Women (Aug. 24, 2018),

13 PCW-NEDA-DBM Joint Circular No. 2012-01, Philippine Comm’n on Women (Nov. 2013),

14 Women in Development and Nation Building Act, Rep. Act No. 7192 (1992) (Phil.).

15 An Act Strengthening the Prohibition on Discrimination Against Women with respect to Terms and Conditions of Employment, Rep. Act No. 6725 (May 12, 1989) (Phil.).

16 Memorandum Circular No. 02, series of 2002, Securities and Exchange Commission (Nov. 6, 2015),

17 Memorandum Circular No. 19, series of 2016, Securities and Exchange Commission (Nov. 22, 2016),

18 Deloitte, supra note 1.

19 Factsheet on Women and Men in the Philippines, Philippine Statistics Authority (Mar. 5, 2018),

20 CEDAW Discusses Situation of Women in the Philippines, Myanmar and France with Civil Society Representatives, UNHCR (July 4, 2016),

21 World Factbook: Philippines, Central Intelligence Agency, (last updated Aug. 27, 2018).

22 Id.

23 Id.

24 Philippine Statistics Authority, supra note 19.