Filipino women have a vital role in society, proven by their mettle in managing matters within and outside the household. In fact, based on 2021 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the basic literacy rate of Filipinas is 1.3% higher than their male counterparts’. Meanwhile, women-led households tend to fare better than those headed by males, enjoying a 9% more average annual income, leading to a 10% more average savings yearly.
These figures should come as no surprise to the members of the Women’s Business Council Philippines, Inc. (WomenBizPH), which seeks to empower women in commerce. Made up of top women business innovators and entrepreneurs, WomenBizPH works in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) to advocate women’s rights in economic sphere, and to improve Filipino women’s access to finance.
Last March 2021, during Women’s Month, the organization produced a series of webinars dubbed as “WOMENar.” With the help of the United Nations, European Union, PCW and DTI, WomenBizPH trained the spotlight on gender equality and workplace inclusivity. The six weekly webinars ran from July 15 to August 19, 2021, culminating in a book available in physical and digital versions.
I Am Woman book launch
Launched last September 2021, I Am Woman: A Gender-Responsive Guide for Business and Corporate Leaders is a user-friendly resource material for executives, human resource professionals, academe and others that promote women’s rights. “Communication is the best way women can make a difference in the world without competing with men. Equality should always be there with respect, humanity and empathy in all aspects of our lives. Put a woman in charge,” WomenBizPH President Mylene Abiva declared.
The book opens with the Magna Carta of Women, built on the framework of human rights. According to this universal law, an empowering workplace abolishes discrimination, providing equal access to privileges and opportunities regardless of gender, age, education and socio-economic levels. Abiva added, “Women need to develop the confidence to have a voice that is heard, the determination to give opinions that should matter.”
Empowered Women = Empowered Nation
The book features stories from successful women, including Dr. Mildred Vitangcol, chairman of the board of St. Peter Life Plan and Chapels. She stated that empowerment stems from childhood. “Most of us start at childhood by learning the ropes of life from role models in the family, most especially our dear mothers. And she is my role model, then and now. I pass this on to my family as well. I have three children on my own.”
Meanwhile, Cherrie Atilano, founding farmer and president of AGREA Agricultural Systems International, Inc., shared in the book about the limited power women wields in the household. This, she witnessed during her visits to farming communities. “I talk to women as they are the ones budgeting at home. However, most of the time, they don’t have access to the income of their husband, especially if the latter has vices. They don’t have a voice for decision- making at home though women farmers are mostly the first one to grow to harvest, but the last or the least, to eat because they prioritize their family.”
In a corporate setting, such gender issues may be resolved through the company’s intervention. As IRC Philippines President Grace Zata said while quoting Thousand Oaks Corporation owner Pebbles Puyat, taking an interest in employees’ lives allows managers to create solutions to their financial problems.
“It is not uncommon to see a woman become emotionally strong and make the right choices,” she explained. “A husband freed from vices is a step in the right direction. In marginalized families, the empowerment of women is often intertwined with the empowerment of men.”
Hotelier Evelyn Singson believes that gender mainstreaming in the workplace should start in recruitment. “They should offer opportunities to all, especially to minority groups like women, and adopt meritocracy without gender bias for promoting people to leadership positions.”
Time and time again, women have secured and thrived as leaders. Philippine Navy advisory board member Maricelle Narciso offers this advice for women leaders: “The first one is have strong role models, and seek mentors early in your career. They are priceless in shaping the kind of leader you will become. The second tip is build diversity in your team. The power of diversity and inclusivity in your team will fuel high trust and high performance that’s going to help you sleep better at night. And the third one is celebrate always our female advantage.”
Dr. Vitangcol explained this female advantage, “We work smart by learning with humility and playing hard, especially when you are in a male-dominated environment. We rise above adversity. We nurture compassion, natural to the nurturing women instinct. We can think and of course, use our gut feel to test our logic and vice versa.”
To strengthen the Filipino women’s role as leaders and change-makers, TeamAsia founder Monette Iturralde-Hamlin emphasized the role of media and communication arts. “We can avoid using words and images that patronize, objectify, marginalize, or even depict women as victims. Instead, why don’t we portray women as agents of change, as leaders, as empowered human beings in positions of authority and power at conferences and webinars.”
This advocacy was further reinforced by Panahon TV Executive Producer Donna May Lina who shared about her corporate ethics. “At Panahon TV, there is a balance of on-camera reporters with female and male reporters. One LGC has been an equal-opportunity organization, assigning roles based on capabilities and merit,” she shared.
Creating Safe Spaces
Aside from the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act, a new Safe Space was signed last 2019. Now, women are protected from harassment in public spaces such as streets, malls and on the internet. Attorney Lorna Patajo-Kapunan explained, “As women, we all deserve to be in a place where we feel respected and celebrated as individuals and professionals. We all want to be in a workplace free of violence, harassment, and even gender standards. As women leaders. We have to be in the forefront of promoting this policy which can lessen unacceptable behaviors, practices or threats that are likely to result in physical, psychological or sexual harm.”
Women Economic Forum’s Network for Enterprising Women Philippines President Myren Garcia enjoined the public to support women especially those pursuing non-traditional roles. “I have this favorite adage, which I would like to share and it goes: We are all Wonder Women. Know them, be them, raise them. Know them and recognize co-women professionals and entrepreneurs thriving in the corporate world and business industry. Be them—have the courage to achieve, and be unstoppable of what lies beyond and raise them as they radiate strength, compassion, and determination to raise the children of tomorrow.”
To order I Am Woman: A Gender-Responsive Guide for Business and Corporate Leaders, contact the WomenBizPH through admin@womenbizph or 09439115540.