The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chaired by Senator Risa Hontiveros recently approved Senate Bill No. 1934, or the proposed SOGIESC-based Anti-Discrimination Act. The bill aims to prohibit the discrimination, marginalization, and violence committed because of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics.

A recent event organized by Thomson Reuters Manila, called “Gendered Expectations: Unlearning Stereotypes,” explored common gender-based stereotypes and best practices that promote inclusive thoughts and actions. Here are some key takeaways from the session:

Everyone needs to be adequately protected by the law to create a level playing field.

Dennis Roda, Co-Lead for Professional Development of the Philippine Financial & Inter-Industry Pride, noted that, despite existing measures in place such as the Bill of Rights, stark inequality remains pervasive in society.

He explained, “We need to realize that creating protection for everyone would level the playing field. Anti-LGBT activists are saying that the law is not needed because we have the Magna Carta and other laws to deal with equality. However, existing laws only deal with certain groups of people. For example, there is no assurance that the Magna Carta for women protect transgender women because there are a lot of people who don’t consider transgender women as women. The Department of Education protects LGBT students in schools but as soon as they graduate, what protection will they have in the workplace? The same goes for civil ordinances in the cities and provinces. Once someone steps out of the city or provincial limits, what protection will they have?”

Representation matters to address everyone’s needs.

Dr. Winlove Mojica, Lead for LGBT Health of the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, noted that while there were recent strides made in representation for the community, much more needs to be done. He remarked, “We need to have more representation. If you are not represented, your needs will not be met. We need to be out there, occupy space, and be seen. We also need to be conscious about passing the mic to others so that everyone’s voices could be heard as a step towards their needs being met.”

Diversity and inclusion must go beyond a slogan; local companies must do more in cultivating culture and institutionalizing protection for everyone.

Genevieve Esguerra, co-founder of the Women Inter-Industry Network, noted that while there are companies that embrace diversity and inclusion, and promote cultural sensitivity starting with its senior leadership, much more needs to be done.

Meanwhile, Roda pointed out that a survey done by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, showed that there is a “grave disconnect” between the LGBT community and the local business sector. “Out of over 100 companies surveyed, the study found that only 17 companies signified that they had codified protection for the LGBT community, and no local companies indicated a positive response. Companies can and should create their own codes of conduct to protect the community.”

SOGIE is for everyone.

“One of the reasons why there is so much resistance to the SOGIE Bill is because people do not understand that this affects them,” Dr. Mojica underscored. “They think that SOGIE is just for the LGBT community, when in fact it is for everybody. All of us have sexuality, and our sexuality affects all our activities.”

He goes on to explain that issues such as teen pregnancies, substance use, mental health concerns, maternal and child mortality, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, chronic smoking, and chronic alcoholism are all affected by sexuality. There is a greater chance for issues to be addressed if everyone understood sexuality.

Embracing diversity and inclusion makes business sense.

The panelists all referred to experiences in the workplace to showcase the benefits of embracing diversity and inclusion. Ultimately, all these show that diversity and inclusion lend to recruitment and retention of talent in an organization. Anecdotally, it also recognizes the purchasing power of the LGBT community in supporting certain industries.

Dr. Mojica shared, “When you attract talent, you have other people contributing to the growth of your company. If you don’t open your business to other people who have different perspectives, orientations, or backgrounds, how can a business grow? This is why it’s a good business decision to invest in diversity and inclusion.”

Preparing the next generation starts now.

Given all these takeaways, it is also important to emphasize that cultivating a culture of acceptance and trust in the next generation begins now. Parents play an important role in developing mentally and emotionally healthy children, regardless of how they identify. Dr. Mojica shared, “When you listen to your child, and you accept your child for whatever they are, then trust is developed. When there is trust, effective communication follows, and relationships become better. When you are able to listen to your child, there is openness and trust around whatever they want to say regarding their SOGIE.”

Ultimately, everyone contributes in cultivating a culture that embraces diversity, inclusion, and equity. While these values start at home and there are laws in place to reinforce, businesses and organizations have critical role in making sure that these values are also observed and respected in the workplace.