For more than a century, the dangerous job of climbing electric poles and handling high voltage facilities of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) has since been assigned to male employees.
The power distributor, which belongs to a traditionally male-denominated industry, relaunched its training and hiring program for aspiring female linecrew as part of its commitment to advance gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Called the Meralco Linecrew Training Program (MLTP), the initiative aims to develop a pool of skilled female line workers who are envisioned to eventually be part of the Meralco workforce.
Since May, 14 women who are part of the newest batch of MLTP trainees have been undergoing a series of lectures, rigorous physical training and endurance conditioning programs in a bid to build and hone their skills that will allow them to properly use manually operated tools and safely climb Meralco utility poles.
These aspiring trainees, alongside 23 male aspirants, will subsequently be assessed by Meralco for possible hiring and deployment after the five-month training.
For 32-year-old Suzette Castro, a former cashier at a gasoline station in Dubai who came back to explore opportunities in the Philippines, the MLTP was something that she is proud to be part of.
Narrating her experience, Castro said: “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,” she said in Filipino.
Castro returned to the Philippines last year at the height of the pandemic and it had been a struggle for her to find another job overseas. Luckily, she came across Meralco Careers’ Facebook post looking for aspiring linecrew, an opportunity that she immediately grabbed.
Asked how her family reacted to her decision to join the MLTP, Castro said: “They were very happy, but they always remind me to be careful because the job that is not usually for women. For me, it was also really challenging.”
“If I am lucky enough to pass the training and be absorbed for employment, I would like to be an inspiration to other women that here in Meralco, you can be successful as long as you are determined and you follow the rules and safety procedures,” she added.
“I will work hard to become a linewoman. I am very proud that despite the job being a job for men, it can still be done by women.”
Another aspiring linewoman, 31-year-old Janette Dulero, worked almost five years as a call center agent before she joined the MLTP.
“It felt different at first because I had a sedentary lifestyle in my previous job. But now under MLTP, my body has become more active, and I feel much stronger. I am very happy with this opportunity,” she shared.
Dulero said that she would pursue working as a linewoman with hopes to inspire more women to take leaps, adding: “They should try it because if they don’t do anything, they won’t be able to enjoy benefits that the Meralco linecrew enjoy.”
“When you become a linewoman, you will make men proud because this will make them realize that this job was not created only for men,” she said.
MLTP Program Manager Roman Leandro Manlapaz explained that the female aspirants undergo a rigorous eight-hour training daily, similar to the male trainees.
“The first batch of our female linecrew proved that women can also perform jobs that were initially identified to be performed by men. With proper training, assessment and on the job experience, our female linecrew will be competent and confident to perform lineworks,” he said in Filipino.
Meralco is one of the power distributors in Southeast Asia to launch a comprehensive technical program for linecrew that aims to offer these jobs even to women. It pioneered the training program in 2013 and currently has nine female linecrew in its workforce.
The relaunch of the MLTP this year now forms as an important part of the company’s bigger Diversity and Inclusion Program called #MBrace, through which it targets to increase women representation in the workforce to 40% by 2030.
“#Mbrace, quite literally, aspires to help Meralco embrace and promote a gender-balanced workplace. This initiative is not simply about improving women representation in the Company, but also about empowering our women and giving them avenues to reach and live their fullest potential,” Meralco First Vice-President and Chief Sustainability Officer Raymond B. Ravelo said.
MBrace’s goals are aligned with SDG 5: Gender Equality and SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. The program likewise fortifies Meralco’s commitment to the UN Global Compact’s Principle 6: Elimination of Discrimination in Employment, and supports the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles as well as the advocacies of the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment.
To further cement its commitment to advancing workforce diversity and nurturing an inclusive and safe workplace for its employees, Meralco recently established a Diversity and Inclusion policy.
Through this new policy, Meralco pledges to ensure equal employment opportunities for all and to respect all individual and value differences across gender, age, ethnicity, physical appearance, health, family status, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic background.
The company through its corporate social responsibility arm One Meralco Foundation, also partnered with Don Bosco College-Canlubang in January this year for a scholarship program that will benefit 15 aspiring female electrical technicians.
The program will cover the tuition fees and allowances of the students who will undergo the Technical Vocational Education Training Program for the dual NC II Program on Electrical Installation and Maintenance and Mechatronics beginning August. The program will also include a four-month on-the-job training for selected students, who will be given the opportunity to join Meralco’s workforce afterwards.