When I meet young girls who seem to be looking for mentors and inspiring modern-day idols, I tell them to attend events of women organizations like the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWen). The coalition is composed of five active women groups involved in business: the Filipina CEO Circle, the NextGen Organization of Women Corporate Directors or NOWCD, SPARK, the Network for Enterprising Women (NEW), and Business and Professional Women (BPW). Because it is Women’s Month, it may be a good time to focus on directing our younger women on career paths and business options.
What are the most important findings a young woman must remember?
1. Women are the biggest consumers around the world. Most purchase decisions are made by women — from cars to make-up. So, having a career in retail or manufacturing of women’s necessities makes for a good option when choosing a path.
2. Women are wired differently. Women are known to be able to multi-task and pay great attention to detail while men are more linear thinkers. So, jobs that need a lot of detail will work best with women on board or at the helm.
3. Women have patience and perseverance because of their many responsibilities at home and at work. If you need someone with “stick-to-itiveness,” hire a woman. While men are macro-planners, women are patient enough to do the micro-management of things.
We must inspire young girls, especially those with intellectual advantage and prowess, to pursue higher learning, chase after rich work experience, and, hopefully, have a work-and-life balance, as the Philippines supports working women with care work at home. These young ladies will be the women corporate leaders of tomorrow.
Young women are best honed in school, with extra-curricular activities in college and maybe a post-graduate course to fine-tune their abilities in critical thinking and resourcefulness. In school, I joined a women’s organization called a sorority where we met inspiring leaders, esteemed alumnae and contemporaries who were campus leaders. The sisterhood extended beyond my stay at the university and happily continues until today. But having joined powerful women thinkers and doers gave me the impetus to dream and pursue even the almost impossible.
Joining an honor society or a college sorority, or in my case a university-wide sorority, is an enriching experience. To this day, 50 years later, I still am in touch with my sisters from far and wide. Many pursued diplomatic careers, jobs in science and technology, arts and architecture, here and abroad. We keep in touch through referrals from other sisters, annual reunions and awarding ceremonies held every five years at our alma mater, the University of the Philippines Diliman. We have an award called Mariang Maya, where sisters who have excelled in their fields are given the honor by the whole congregation with a statuette designed by National Artist Napoleon Abueva and a lot of fanfare along with it. It is inspiring, especially for the young resident sisters, and a good example of what one can become beyond the university.
At the ceremony held recently to honor eight outstanding Sigma Deltans, no less than economist and Mariang Maya past awardee Solita “Winnie” Monsod was in attendance, together with other past awardees, broadcast personality Ces Drilon, Oceana head and environment advocate Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, and historian Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria.
The current awardees are: Marlene Paje-Rodriguez for Public Administration; Emelyn Lynett Advincula Villariba for Visual Journalism; Ambassador Virginia Honrado-Benavidez for Diplomacy and International Relations; Maria Lourdes Santos for Food Research and Development; Linda Luz Bacungan-Guerrero, President of Social Weather Stations, for Social Research; Annie Gerona Dee for Business and Entrepreneurship; Maria Elizabeth Santiago-Sichon for Human Resource Development; and Frances Rivera, a journalist and news anchor in CNBC, for Broadcast Communications. These women excelled in different fields beyond the campus and went into corporate careers or government service.
This March is another celebration of Women’s Month and another reminder for women (and men) to recognize the role of women in society. Beyond the recognition of biological differences, there is a need to remind everyone that women and men have the same opportunities for careers and paths thought to be “for men only,” like mining, for example. Young women of today must not choose traditional paths but blaze new trails given the advantage of technology as an equalizer, among other democratizing developments such as the internet and fintech, to name a few.
In the corporate and business environment, women must be recognized and included in all levels of management, if a company has to be sustainable. Diversity and Inclusion has been not just an advocacy for some but now a requirement to be a sustainable enterprise. Women and youth must be included in plans for a sustainable future. Diversity must even extend up to the board room where women and youth can play a crucial role in making companies adapt to the new normal.
This month, let us be conscious and celebrate our young girls, our young corporate executives, our women civic leaders to rise up and continue to be noticed as movers of society. This can only happen if we allow them to develop to their full potential in the organization, even during child-bearing years. Many women also have their preferences and choose to not have families because of careers and they must also be respected for their choices. Every woman must be her own self, not a copy of society’s perceived model.
Look around you and find an inspiring woman who can inspire others to become their best versions of themselves, recognizing their own potential and be the exemplar for generations to come.
Happy Women’s Month to all the women out there!
Chit U. Juan is a member of the MAP Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, and the MAP Agribusiness Committee. She is president of NOWCD, chair of the Philippine Coffee Board, and councilor of Slow Food for Southeast Asia.