Ambassador-Designate Annika Thunborg speaks at the “NordCham DiversiTV: The Network of Diversity Dialogue and Development”

In an event entitled "NordCham DiversiTV: The Network of Diversity Dialogue and Development," last 22nd of September 2021, the Nordic Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (NordCham) welcomed Ambassador of Sweden, Annika Thunborg, who recently arrived in Manila, as one of the speakers of the said event. Ambassador Thunborg was joined by Ms. Marla Garin-Alvarez, Vice President for Sustainability at the BDO Unibank Inc. 

Ambassador Thunborg talked about the importance of gender equality and diversity in doing business. She highlighted Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy, and Feminist Trade Policy anchored on three R’s (Rights, Representation, and Resources). These three Rs stood as pillars in combating inequalities and seeking parity.  

Following that, she narrated that before the feminist movement, Nordic countries had given much attention to gender diversity as an essential tool for developing the nations. This initiative was pushed forward because of the collective efforts of feminist movements.  

Hereafter, she shared incredible fun facts of the results and changes of the social reforms, such as extending women’s participation, women empowerment, and promoting economic and social independence. This also started the concept of shared childcare. New gender roles began to gain traction, and this would assist in altering future generations’ realities.  

Certainly, Sweden has a landmark in dealing with diversity and inclusion. The practices, reforms, and initiatives pioneered by advocates are integral to other nations to adopt the same best practices.  

On to Ms. Garin-Alvarez's talk, she quoted "Equal Representation, Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities," which left the audience in awe due to its profound impact on achieving inclusion and diversity in the workplace. She shared her knowledge and experience about the next-level initiatives, the well-established work environment, and the common questions from local conglomerates concerning gender diversity.  

She also highlighted that gender equality must be at the backbone of every company’s culture and values as this mirrors the company’s business performance and service to its clients and customers. Furthermore, she advocates and promotes the use of data and research in cultivating information, looking at aspects that need improvement, and addressing challenges.  

Most importantly, she narrated the inspiring stories that her company, BDO, has been doing to ensure better ways of providing satisfaction to both its employees and customers. Ms. Garin-Alvarez ended her presentation with a quote from Former Associate Justice Ginsburg, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” 

During the panel discussion, Ambassador Thunborg emphasized that “Feminism is not about women dominating, it is about achieving parity”. It was also pointed out that during the pandemic, parents share the burden of staying and working at home at the same time, since men and women are given equal opportunities and even have an equal number of parental leaves. And it is imperative to promote equality and effecting change to have strong leadership from the government. 

In addition, Ms. Garin-Alvarez mentioned what they did to respond to their employees’ needs during the pandemic. She also mentioned that showing proof points to some companies about having equal parental leaves can help them realize its importance and benefits.Aside from that, she said that if you continue to have male-dominated companies, you will not be considering your female customers in the decision-making.

According to President Lundqvist, a leader must dare to include women in higher management. You have to practice what you preach. It can’t be just a policy. Promoting opportunities for women and ensuring they are promoted at all levels of management is essential. He mentioned that there are only two things we need to change. The first one is the attitude of the society towards this change. It has to be socially acceptable for dads to take parental leave to take care of their child the same way that mothers do. The other one is the laws and regulations needed to help employers to allow fathers to be home during these times.

The event was closed by Ms. Alvarez, who emphasized that “gender equality provides opportunities to both men and women.” She said that “you need to look at parity in a more granular perspective to allow the other gender to have an equal opportunity and to achieve balance.”