Conversations about workplace diversity and dynamics have been at the forefront of many companies and human resource teams. Racism, white fragility, and micro-aggression are socio-cultural issues we’re no strangers to and have to constantly tackle as part of our human nature and society. While such conversations and issues are less than comfortable to openly speak about, there’s a ripple effect that office politics and workplace dynamics contribute to our personal lives.
Perhaps, one scenario that isn’t often discussed locally is the workplace dynamics Filipinos experience abroad. Many times, we romanticize the Filipino diaspora, believing that working abroad would be much better than staying in the Philippines. Such romanticism is mostly based on the salary gap between first-world countries to ours. But there is much more to working life abroad than what it seems.
As a half-Filipina, I grew up in a very Euro-centric community in Belgium. Though most workplaces still need to expand their employee diversity, I happened to be accepted in a company where employees are from different backgrounds and cultures.
I have been lucky to work with a multicultural team and have had the opportunity to learn from many different people. It feels like a privilege to be working in such a diverse atmosphere. However, when it comes to applying for jobs, I feel as though people assume that I will be blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and white-skinned. These assumptions are often tied to my name, which sounds very German, so many would ask about my background or origins, despite being half-Belgian.
Sometimes, it feels like there's some subconscious bias at work, but I’ve been working on this for so long now. I've had years where I made myself believe that it was true; and years where I didn't care because it wasn't affirming my identity. But now that I'm working with a multicultural team, I'm starting to realize how limiting these beliefs are. Not only are they limiting career opportunities—but they're also limiting the way other people will see me and treat me.
In retrospect, these experiences all contribute to the resiliency we have as Filipinos. However, it shouldn’t be glorified, as advocating for workplace diversity should inherently be natural. Working in your own country seems to eliminate any sociocultural gaps and identity crises at work but such isn’t the case for many overseas Filipino workers, Filipino immigrants, and mixed-race children who are products of this diaspora.
Giving equal opportunities to people from all walks of life is the foundation for creating a collaborative work environment with diverse minds shaped from different perspectives. After all, globalization is here to stay and is now the new norm for many emerging companies and industries. It isn’t unusual to hire someone from across the globe, especially when we are moving towards more remote work. But more importantly, open conversations about workplace diversity and dynamics should be heard–no matter where we are from around the world.
by Gresson Peiffer