Gender equality and women empowerment are two ideals that go hand in hand. Over the years, women have redefined their role in the society by demonstrating natural greatness that have since been acknowledged and celebrated. With the help of companies that recognize what women with nurtured potentials can achieve, the global push for gender equality has reached more milestones.
Joining the movement to #EmbraceEquity as the world celebrates the International Women’s Month, Manila Electric Company (Meralco), one of the biggest players in a male-dominated industry, commits to continue embracing gender diversity, inclusivity, and equality in the workplace.
Through various initiatives under its overarching diversity and inclusion program aptly called #Mbrace, the company targets to increase women representation in the workforce to 40% by 2030. As of 2022, 22% of the company’s workforce comprises women. This is significantly higher than the global energy sector average of 11%.
#Mbrace is also aligned with the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on Gender Equality and UN SDG 10 on Reduced Inequalities.
Meralco set to welcome additional 13 female linecrews
In 2013, Meralco introduced a comprehensive technical program for aspiring linecrews that aims to develop a pool of skilled line workers who are envisioned to eventually become part of the company’s workforce. In fact, the company is one of, if not the first, power distributors in Southeast Asia to do this and offer these jobs even to women.
With currently eight (8) female linecrews on board, Meralco has done away with the tradition of leaving the physically taxing jobs to male employees by allowing its female employees to also do some heavy lifting. Meralco’s female linecrews perform the same tasks as their male counterparts such as climbing electric poles and handling high-voltage facilities.
Among the first batch of female linecrews is 30-year-old Jelly Jean Pugao, who was just 21 years old when she joined the company. When asked about her experience on working with her male peers, she said in Filipino: “The pressure is always there. Seeing them do the job sometimes makes me ask myself if I can really do it, too, but with my family as my motivation, I’m able to do my job as a female linecrew.”
With her nine years of service, Pugao can already be considered a veteran in her line of work. She’s a perfect example of how women can find men’s jobs enjoyable and fulfilling despite physical limitations. Her main advice to other women who are interested to apply as female linecrew is to never undermine their capabilities.
“Don’t ever think that you’re just a woman. YOU ARE A WOMAN. You must believe in yourself that you’re here because you can do what male linecrews can do. It’s all about mindset,” Pugao shared in Filipino.
Last year, the company reopened its in-house training program for female aspirants and called it Meralco Linecrew Training Program (MLTP). Through the successful relaunch, 13 new female linecrews are set to join the Meralco workforce soon.
One of them is Zuzette Castro, a former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Dubai, who decided to go back to the Philippines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Narrating her training experience, Castro shared: “I cried hard on my first time to climb an electric pole because who would have thought that I can do that? The experience was really something life-changing for me.”
Castro also recalled her experience during her on-the-job training (OJT) where she had the opportunity to carry out her learnings when severe tropical storm Paeng battered the country in November 2022. She was among the linecrews deployed to restore power in Rizal province.
“The MLTP prepared us for the actual work as a linecrew and I experienced that firsthand. Our mentors ensured that we were equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills so we can do our work safely,” she said.
Furthermore, to encourage interested female linecrew aspirants to refrain from being scared to try getting into the program, Castro advised, “If you want to try doing what we’re doing, don’t worry because Meralco really values safety. It’ s always safety first that’s why we undergo a rigorous six months of training. Also, trust that the company will never let you out in the field if they don’t think you’re ready. Meralco has a great training program.”
For the 32-year-old former OFW, MLTP is something that she is proud to be part of. Castro is set to officially become a tagapaghatid ng liwanag on April 1, 2023.
Scholarship grants for aspiring women electrical engineers
Carrying a meaningful catchline “Changing lives, one woman at a time”, Meralco launched MPowHER, a scholarship program for aspiring female professional electrical engineers. Through its social development arm, One Meralco Foundation (OMF), the company awarded scholarship to 18 female college students from various universities.
Selected junior electrical engineering students will receive allowances for food, transportation, internet connectivity, and books as well as financial assistance for their review and board examination in their final year of studies. The scholarship also includes an internship in Meralco, and the opportunity to eventually explore career opportunities with the power distributor upon graduating.
Scholarship grantees were from Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), and the University of the Philippines Diliman and Los Baños.
MPowHER is part and parcel of Meralco’s commitment to increase women participation in the energy industry.
“These investments on the education of women and helping them realize their full potential are the beginnings that will shape an energy industry that is inclusive,” Meralco Chief CSR Officer and OMF President Jeffrey O. Tarayao said during the awarding ceremonies.
Inclusion in the 2023 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index
Meralco’s array of initiatives on gender equality has not gone unnoticed as the company was recently included in the 2023 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI), a modified market capitalization-weighted index developed to gauge the performance of public companies dedicated to reporting gender-related data.
This reference index measures gender equality based on five pillars: leadership & talent pipeline, equal pay & gender pay parity, inclusive culture, anti-sexual harassment policies, and external brand.
Meralco is the sole Philippine electric utility included in the only environmental, social, and governance (ESG) assessment in the world focused on gender equality.
“As we continue powering the good life for all, we firmly believe that embracing women empowerment and promoting gender equality are key to building an inclusive and sustainable future,” said Meralco President and Chief Executive Officer Atty. Ray C. Espinosa.
To merit inclusion, a company must garner a score that meets or goes beyond the thresholds set by Bloomberg based on a social survey that they created in collaboration with subject matter experts globally. The scores are reflective of disclosures and the achievement or adoption of best-in-class statistics and policies of entrant companies. As society steers toward achieving gender equality, Meralco will continue to be at the forefront of this journey. The company will remain steadfast in its commitment of being a workplace with a culture that empowers women and lead the push forward as a change agent until this global goal has been realized.