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Forward Tinkerers host star-studded roundtable to challenge stereotypes

IMMAP, the Forward Tinkerers of Philippine digital, held their second Virtual Member Meet Up (VMM) for the year last week. Hosted by TeamAsia’s Bea Lim, the VMM, under the theme, “Break the Bias”, was in commemoration of Women’s Month, and presented in association with Investing in Women (IW), an Australian Government initiative on promoting gender equality. With a program designed to challenge long-held stereotypes, a number of guests were on-hand to lend their insights in a panel discussion moderated by TeamAsia’s Monette Iturralde-Hamlin.

The program opened with a keynote address by UP College of Mass Communications Dean Fernando Paragas, who shared excerpts from his groundbreaking study on gender depictions in Philippine mass media. Funded by IW, the study looked at more than 1,200 ads on TV, radio, and print. The research found that when campaigns depict characters in social contexts, women are overwhelmingly shown caring for children or doing the housework, while men are more likely to be shown in professions or skilled labor.

In his address, Paragas challenged the audience to regularly question their own perceptions while showing that the pandemic had actually disrupted traditional roles for the better. Produced in association with Investing in Women, the study showed that women, long presented as homemakers and dependent on their spouses, are “keen to be economically independent, and that women and men are sharing caring roles equally at home,” with Paragas noting, “The pandemic realigned gender stereotypes.”

A star-studded panel was then introduced, which included married power couples Eileen & Gino Borromeo (of Kroma Entertainment and SM Supermalls, respectively), and Michelle & Carlo Ople (Ripple8, and PLDT Home, respectively), joined by business partners and AFDigital co-founders Pauline Pangan & Robin Leonard, and brand speaker Adi Timbol-Hernandez of McDonald’s Philippines.

Moderator Iturrade-Hamlin first asked how the power couples handled the last two years in various stages of lockdown. The Oples shared that the key to their personal and professional successes was in identifying and recognizing what each of them was good at, and dividing tasks accordingly. For the Borromeos, being parents to a toddler, this refusal to adhere to convention in their homes didn’t just extend to Gino cooking family meals, it went as far as discouraging gender-specific toys, with playtimes where makeup is just as welcome as sword fights.

On a similar note, Timbol-Hernandez revealed that, while recognizing the changing face of the Filipino family was part of McDonald’s ongoing marketing success, it is an ongoing learning process for everyone involved, as gender perceptions evolve daily.

On the marriage front, both Borromeos and Oples agreed that, when it came to their respective careers, it was important to make decisions together. For the Oples, the pandemic led to their embracing of the work-from-home model that turned out to be more fruitful and productive than anyone could have predicted; case in point, they were joining the VMM from the United States, and Carlo would later reveal that he was actually saying goodbye to corporate life in a few days!

Indeed, the ability to work almost entirely from anywhere in the world has been an unexpected benefit of the pandemic, as multiple industries have proven their ability to function and maintain productivity remotely. Leonard hit the nail on the head when he said that business owners had to incentivize their employees coming into a physical location as, “When you're back to back on Zoom calls, what's the point of being in the office?”

This lead to a spirited discussion on wages, with WFH essentially serving to democratize work, with Carlo emphasizing that people should be paid what they’re worth, without them having to negotiate for it. The notion got rave reactions from the audience, prompting Leonard to chime in, questioning why someone in Australia should theoretically be paid more for a job than someone in Manila doing the same thing.

In any case, Pangan said that the key to maintaining a harmonious workspace, whether for the purposes of productivity or gender safety, was to regularly keep an ear to the ground for employee sentiment, as, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Whether the topic was on the roles of married couples, or the emergent ways of navigating the professional world, the guests agreed with Dean Paragas’ observation that, “The patriarchy is impractical - why cling to it? We have better ways to do things.”

Investing in Women solidified their relationship with IMMAP last year, sponsoring the Purple Boomerang for at the 2021 Boomerang Awards, introduced to recognize and showcase brand campaigns that bravely challenge gender stereotypes. The inaugural award was presented to Avon’s “#LetHerBe” campaign, for its message of empowering women beyond stereotypes. For more information on Investing in Women, IMMAP, and the Boomerang Awards, visit

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