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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Outsourcing firm makes workplace woman friendly

By Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:34:00 03/08/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Consulting and outsourcing firm Accenture on Friday said it will strengthen efforts to make its workplace more conducive to women, especially in the Philippines where the proportion of men to women is higher compared to elsewhere in its global network.

Kevin M. Campbell, Accenture's chief executive for its outsourcing group, said in a briefing there was a one-to-one ratio in the firm's 15,000-strong workforce in the Philippines.

"The statistics are lower outside this country," Campbell said. "We view this as one of the strengths of our operations here."

He said the sex ratio of Accenture's local workforce evened out in the past three or four years when more and more women were hired as working women became more and more socially acceptable and necessary.

"A big boost to motivate women as half our workforce here was having a female country managing director," Campbell said. "From there, it became more of finding out culturally what works for this country."

He was referring to Beth G. Lui, who has been at the helm of Accenture in the Philippines since 2002.

Lui said Accenture has adopted programs that encourage women employees to stay with the firm "for a long time."

She said these programs include flexible working hours, remote working (from one's home), and ways that help them enjoy social activities without spending too much money.

"We have parts of community programs that are specifically for working women, especially mothers, who enjoy their careers but need to spend more time with their families," she said.

For example, if an employee has DSL service at home, it is possible that she can work from there two days in a week.

Lui said there also was training on managing personal finances, crafts like jewelry and bead-making, and the traditional sport-oriented activities.

She said one reason for the large number women in Accenture's local workforce was that outsourcing work suited women because they are good in multi-tasking and because of their leadership qualities and empathy.

"The job is not dependent on physical abilities," Lui said. "It is process-oriented and uses one's intellect, it is about discipline."

"We want to keep our female employees with us for the long haul and the challenge to that is to help them build self-confidence as well as exposing them to role models," said Campbell, who is based in the United States.

Both Campbell and Lui said another program that showed how the company appreciated its women employees was its decision to celebrate International Women's Day every year.

Accenture commemorated the occasion a day early on Friday, the fourth year in a row, with this year's celebration themed, "Discovering opportunities in a multi-polar world.”

Also on Friday, the New York Stock Exchange-listed firm released the findings of a recent study which showed that only 43 percent of women professionals worldwide felt they were well-equipped to compete in the business economy of the future.

Sponsored by Accenture, the study titled "One Step Ahead or 2011: A New Horizon for Working Women," surveyed some 4,000 male and female business professionals in 17 countries across Europe, Asia, North America, and South America.

However, the study had no respondents based in the Philippines.

The survey asked respondents to consider their "skill readiness" in six categories -- agility, social responsibility, global skills, technology, inclusion and diversity, and business relationships.

Skills readiness was defined as representing the respondents' perceived importance of the specific skill as well as their readiness in that skill.

Both men and women rated technology at the top of their skills readiness assessment, with 75 percent and 73 percent saying so, respectively.

Further, the study found that women were more likely than men to attribute their career advancement to ambition and drive, to passion for their chosen careers and to family support.

Asked what factors limited their careers, 23 percent of women respondents cited gender, 22 percent said it was the need to devote energy to children and family, and 18 percent said it was an unwillingness to relocate.