Gone are the days when women are relegated to domestic roles, prevented from participating in and leading tasks outside the confines of their households.
While the journey to truly empowering all women and achieving gender parity still continues, stories about real women leaders and trailblazers show young girls out there, that they, too, can run the world.
Breaking barriers in the financial services industry
Candy Suarez is the chief financial officer at an insurance firm. Her role involves risk management and part of this responsibility is ensuring the company’s capability to fulfill its promise of protection.
She has seen how the life insurance industry has evolved, and how her job contributes to the financial well-being of the customers it serves, filling her with “great fulfillment.” She says, “Young Filipinas now are also more financially literate and aware than ever because of the wealth of information that is available to them.”
“Fortunately, in Manulife, there is a conscious decision to empower women and help them advance in their careers. This has given me confidence to do the job at hand, without unnecessary distractions or worry from dealing with unproductive gender biases,” shares Suarez.
With her experience as the president and chief executive of Manulife Asset Management Trust Corporation, Aira Gaspar encourages women to seek a career in investment management. “As they develop their knowledge and skills in understanding how financial markets work and the factors that drive the movement of asset prices, they will find that investment management can be a fulfilling career,” she emphasizes.
Getting customer insights and understanding the messages that will resonate with their needs, while bringing fun and flavor to an industry usually seen as traditional has been Melissa Henson’s bread and butter. Becoming a chief marketing officer is a long-time dream, and to this day, it continues to be her dream job.
“Courage helps in advancing your career because you need to step out of your comfort zone and try new things, both in personal development and in exploring new projects and initiatives,” shares Henson.
Gaspar also acknowledges the value of being bold. “Do not let the possibility of failure keep you from pursuing your aspirations. When failure happens, do not allow it to define what you can achieve.”
Light rail’s trailblazers
Some of the people responsible for ensuring the public safely gets to their destination are the female team members of the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC), the operator of LRT-1.
Lead station supervisor Lou Ambrosio is in charge of properly leading the team that directly interacts with customers, including station supervisors, tellers, and other personnel directly performing their functions within the station. With the goal of delivering a reliable and quality customer service to the riding public, especially during the pandemic, the weight on her shoulders is pretty daunting. Despite the added challenge, she ensures safety protocols are followed to keep everyone, her colleagues, their customers, and even her family safe.
The primary caretaker of LRMC’s employees is also a woman. Head of human resource and admin, Florence Bautista’s job entails looking after the well-being and concerns of team members. “Although stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns have always been there, this pandemic brought the employees’ mental health to the forefront,” she reveals.
“As a leader, I can never overemphasize the need to consistently reach out and communicate to our employees,” says Bautista.
Working in a male-dominated industry, the pressure of being a woman train operator will always be there, according to Christine Cunanan. Despite the challenges brought by the current health crisis, she says, “I am very thankful to the company for providing and ensuring the health and safety of employees in our workplace.”
Other women-in-charge at LRMC include Melca Samson, head of buildings and facilities section and infrastructure division manager, whose job involves handling the overall management of tracks, buildings, and facilities, and ensuring all project and construction works are done on time; and Jireh Canoy, head of maintenance planning section.
Making a difference in the company and the society
Fast food chain McDonald’s Philippines takes pride in its gender-diverse workforce where women account for 55 percent of the total employee population. Out of this number, 56 percent manage the company’s over 650 stores.
Through its newest campaign #MPowered, McDonald’s lauds women leaders and team members who have helped steer the company amid a trying year.
“We survived 2020 due to the exemplary leadership that the women of McDonald’s have shown—the roles they played in initiatives that have propelled our business and brought us closer to different communities,” enthuses McDonald’s Philippines president and chief executive Kenneth Yang.
The company’s women leaders have driven landmark projects for McDonald’s in partnership with other stakeholders amid the pandemic.
Managing director Margot Torres co-led Ingat Angat, the country’s biggest consumer confidence campaign for Task Force T3, a consortium of private companies that supports and partners with the government for its test, trace, and treat initiatives against COVID-19.
She continues her work on another national project as the private sector lead for Pilipinas Kontra Gutom, a multi-sectoral initiative in partnership with the government’s Task Force Zero Hunger—all while continuously overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations.
Following the strict lockdowns last year, McDonald’s was able to continue its operations, drive-thru, McDelivery, and dine-in at a limited capacity through its M Safe Program, led by corporate communications manager Puch Agodon.
Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) executive director Marie Angeles was at the helm of McDonald’s Kindness Kitchen. Initially intended to feed 50,000 frontliners and individuals from vulnerable sectors, the project progressed to feeding over 400,000 through the concerted effort of RMHC and its corporate partners including Metrobank, Coca-Cola, HAVI, and Angkas. The McDonald’s Kindness Kitchen remains committed to serve more meals to more Filipinos this 2021.