Articles Special Article Women Take the Lead: International Women's Month Special

Women Take the Lead: International Women's Month Special

In light of International Women's Month, we interviewed four beautiful and strong women to impart their insights on women empowerment and gender equality.

In a world filled with bias and discrimination, we can choose to free ourselves from them and celebrate everyone’s differences by valuing each other more than our genders. Collectively, we can make a change by raising awareness and taking action towards equality.

March is the month when we outwardly celebrate women – to celebrate their achievements despite the existing glass ceiling present in society. Although we are far from living in a gender-equal world, women – and all genders in between – strive to bring positive change and to break the bias.

In light of International Women’s Day, we’ve interviewed four beautiful and strong women to share their insights on societal issues that women face as well as their voice to empower women around the world.

Ms. Anna Claudine David

Ms. Claudine David is the SVP and Senior Managing Director of FactSet Philippines Inc, and Riga, Latvia. She is also the Head of the Global Business Continuity Management Team and APAC region office facilities management of the company for over 11 years, with 2,500 employees and growing.

More about Ms. Anna Claudine David.

1.  Do we need more women in leadership roles?

“Over the past decade, I would say we have had many good strong women leaders. But do we need more? Yes, I would say we do need more women in leadership roles, where women can be recognized as equal to men and not have to make an extra effort just to prove women are great leaders.”

2. What are some of the ways that the government can help support and advance women’s rights?

“Awareness, Communication, and Education (ACE). I use this acronym in some of our initiatives to help keep things top of mind and this, I think, can be a way the government can help support and advance women. Bring awareness to all, especially to women on what their rights are (to be treated equally and fairly). Communicate – there are many avenues now that can be used as platforms such as social – and get the message across in order to educate women on what their rights are and to encourage each and every one of them to stand up for those rights. Education is important to give women knowledge and skills that can empower them to stand up for their rights despite inequality.”

3. What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

“Growing up I was raised by a family who had strong women run things, not only the households but their businesses as well. And that has been the case where women are highly respected in our family. Although, this wasn’t the case in my career early on. But with hard work and a goal of standing in front of men and be heard and respected, I made it happen. I was the first woman executive director at the Australian New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCHAM) where all the executive directors of the other chambers were men. And now, I have seen that there have been more women in the same position with ANZCHAM also in other chambers which were strongly male-dominated.  There have been tremendous strides for gender equality in very recent years, most especially in the workplace. At FactSet Philippines, more than 50% of our organization is comprised of women, and as an organization, we ensure diversity and inclusion in our work.“

4. What are the most significant challenges that women stereotypically face based on their gender?

“To date, I think we are still seen as the weaker gender. The comment “babae kasi” (it’s a woman), means we are seen as emotional, weaker, and sometimes that our place is at home taking care of the house and family. This is a challenge since we always have that mindset that we need to prove ourselves and work even harder to show we are equal if not, better than men which should not be the case. We should be seen as an individual and what we are capable of doing as a person.”

5. What can be done to address gender stereotypes and gender inequality?

“I would stand by my ACE acronym of Awareness, Communication, and Education. Do your part by communicating through speaking up and educating others by sharing your experiences about how you have experienced gender stereotypes or inequality. I would say this would be for all genders, and not just men, women, or however one chooses to be identified. Stand up for what you believe in but also ensure respect for others as you expect others to respect you. You speaking up and communicating will educate and make others aware and hopefully enlighten them and share with others how to treat all persons equally and with respect.”

6. How do the movements of Times Up and #MeToo mean for the women of today?

“In any situation where a person is put in a comprising situation, it's hard for one to have the confidence and strength to share their experiences and what they have gone through. These movements are helping women speak up and know they are not alone, that there are others like them who have been through something similar. This should help women know they have a support group that can help them not only heal but also build their confidence and self-worth.”

7.  How can YOU contribute your wisdom, expertise, or ideas to empower women?

“As a woman leader, I love to encourage women to believe in themselves. Through coaching and mentoring, I am able to help build their confidence on who they are and what they are capable of doing. Sharing my experiences, listening to their challenges, being empathic, and making them self-aware of how they can help themselves allow them to gain confidence in themselves, thus empowering them to move forward and aim for their goals and aspirations. Simple words of affirmation, appreciation, and encouragement will help make some feel they have done well, that they are on the right track to strive to do more and better – this helps one feel empowered.”  

8. How can men contribute to women’s empowerment in the home and in society?

“Being an advocate for equality, supporting diversity and inclusion, and simply respecting women as equals or acknowledging when women can be or are even better than men in some aspects. Set by example to younger generations and encourage young girls and women to know their rights and empower them by starting at home.”

Ms. Olivia de Jesus, MD

Dr. Olivia Flordeliza-de Jesus is a board-certified dermatologist and is a diplomate of the Philippine Dermatological Society. She graduated from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. She earned her medical degree at the University of Santo Tomas and completed her Dermatology residency training at Skin and Cancer Foundation where she graduated chief resident. Dr. de Jesus is the owner and medical director of Magallanes Skin and Wellness Clinic that aims to help her patients to become their best, most confident selves, and achieve their beauty goals.

More about Ms. Olivia de Jesus, MD.

1. Why do you think it’s important to observe International Women's Day?

“International Women’s Day is such an important day to all the women around the world in celebration of women’s contribution to history, culture, and society. Gender equality is actually well-advanced here in the Philippines. According to the World Economic Forum, the Philippines ranked 17th out of 156 countries in the 2021 Global Gender Gap Index and remains number 1 in Asia. That means we rank high in the world and highest in Asia in closing the gender gap between men and women in terms of economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.  The Philippines may score well as compared to our other Asian countries, but I believe we can still do more, and we need more women who need to step up and become effective and powerful leaders and change-makers in our society. This special day is not just a celebration of our accomplishments as women, it also challenges us and invites us to assess and reflect on how we can contribute more toward equality and a call to action.”

2. What does International Women's Day mean to you and for you?

“For me, celebrating International Women’s Day means appreciating the courage and perseverance of the women in the past and what they have done to give us, the women of today, the freedom that we have. It is a day where we recognize all the great strides taken and all the accomplishments that these exceptional women in history have done to empower the women of today. It is because of the sacrifices of these truly remarkable women that we are enjoying our privileges at this moment.

I am very fortunate that I grew up in a family that supports women. I have wonderful parents and I have two sisters, both of whom have successful careers in business. I have a father who encouraged me and supported my dreams of becoming a doctor. When my father suffered health issues, my mother and my aunts were the ones who took the reins of the company and managed our family business. I am my own boss because I manage my own clinic, and all my employees are women. I have a career in dermatology, and in this particular medical field, we are mostly women; although in other countries, there are more male dermatologists. This actually also holds true with regards to other medical specialties like OB-Gyne and pediatrics where it is mostly dominated by women here in the Philippines but it doesn’t hold true in other countries. My husband, who is also a physician, fully supports my career, and we are equal in our decision-making for the family. But in meeting other women from different cultures and circumstances, from all walks of life, I realized that not everyone is as fortunate as I am. There are cultural differences and problems as well as barriers that need to be addressed. I believe it really comes down to creating awareness and educating people that women can do more in our society, that they have the ability to determine their own choices, that they can influence social change for themselves, and that they can make a difference in their lives as well as the lives of other people.”

3. Is the current theme: ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable tomorrow and Call for Climate Action for Women, by Women” a relevant topic?

“Yes, it is definitely a relevant topic. At first glance, you may think that gender equality and sustainability seem unrelated, but if you think about it, it makes more sense. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division, with our current population of 112 million, 56.4 million are men, and 56.1 million are women. That is 1 to 1 ratio. So by providing equal access to education and opportunities for employment for women, gender equality can help reduce poverty, enhance societal well-being, increase the country’s economic growth, and help ensure sustainable development.”

4. What women-related myths need to be changed and challenged?

“For me, the myth that women with kids will not have time to meet leadership obligations need to be changed and challenged.  I have seen this scenario time and again: women are forced to choose between family or career. It is this notion that once you have given birth, it’s game over, your career advancement will have to take the back seat. But this mindset is what limits us as women because I believe we do not need to choose just one path. We can choose to do both. I am fortunate that I can both be a mother and have my own career. Balancing my work and motherhood may be challenging but it’s certainly possible with the right support systems. And that is why it is very important for women to be educated so that they can realize their full potential and can still contribute to society.”

5. What can be done to address gender stereotypes and gender inequality?

“I believe we need to give more educational opportunities for women and raise their aspirations.  When girls stay in school and finish university degrees, more opportunities open up for them and their families. They enjoy better health and can take care of themselves and their children. They live longer, marry later, earn higher wages, and are more active participants in their community.  It is in this context that we need to change how young women see themselves, they should see themselves as equal partners in building their families and financial wealth, more than just being good wives and mothers. They need to imagine they can be more and they can do more if they choose to. We need to build their confidence that they can be strong and independent, that they can be engineers or entrepreneurs if they really want those career options.   And of course, they need their loved ones to be supportive of their dreams. So I believe creating awareness need not be limited to women, but to their parents and husbands as well so that they will realize that their daughters and wives can be something more.”

6. How can you contribute your wisdom, expertise, or ideas to empower women?

“Working as a dermatologist for the past 10 years, I helped a lot of women improve their self-esteem through proper skincare. Skin problems like acne, pigment problems, and other similar skin conditions can affect self-esteem, and this, in turn, can affect relationships at home and at work. Skincare can play a major role when it comes to self-confidence because people feel better about themselves when they look better. By helping them make informed decisions about proper skincare and by treating their various skin concerns, I empower my patients to become more confident in themselves and to be more comfortable in their own skin. I am glad to be a part of their journey in boosting their self-confidence and having a greater sense of self-worth to achieve clear, healthy, glowing skin.”

Ms. Rhia De Guzman

Rhia Flordeliza de Guzman is a wife, mother and interior designer. After placing 4th in the interior design board exam, she did further studies in Milan and New York, before setting up her own interior design company in 2018 – New Maven Studio. Her company is based in Makati and caters to both residential and commercial clients (drop by and see their works here @newmavenstudio). A self-professed introvert, she gets design inspiration from travel and likes to spend her weekends playing with her two young children.

More about Ms. Rhia De Guzman

1. Share a women’s empowerment moment that inspired you.

“The most recent one I can think of was when Hidilyn Diaz won the first ever olympic gold medal for the Philippines. It’s so inspiring how she was able to bring pride and honor to our country through hard work and dedication.”

2. Do you believe that a lot of progress has been made on women’s issues since commemorating this event over a century ago?

“From women joining the workforce to having a voice in the community as its elected leaders – there has certainly been progress since a century ago. However, I do think there’s still a long way to go in terms of challenging gender stereotypes and the biases that go with it.”

3. What progress have you seen on a gender equality in your life and work?

“As a wife and mother, I am grateful to enjoy the support of both family and friends regarding my choice to raise a family and pursue my ambition at the same time. I also see a lot of well deserved appreciation for stay at home mothers who are very important to families and the community.

As an interior designer, I am glad to see more and more women in construction today, and that their inputs are being valued and respected in a male-dominated industry.”

4. Do we need more women in leadership roles?

“I am not privy to the current statistics, although I do think that women leaders should be seen as an asset. Sadly, there’s still a lot of backward thinking out there that women “are not cut out as leaders” for some trivial reasons. A good example of excellent leadership by women would be Finland, a country that is predominantly led by women, which is being lauded by the public for their effective Covid response. Same goes for New Zealand which is known to have a female prime minister.”

5. What are some of the ways that the government can help support and advance women’s rights?

“One thing the government can do is to do more in campaigning initiatives that protect and respect women’s rights particularly those that punish and prevent violence against women. The government needs to ensure that justice is served in cases involving abuses against women.”

6. How can men contribute to women’s empowerment in the home and in society?

“It goes without saying that men should have mutual respect and admiration for women. They should value their contributions to the home and the community. We should recognize that it’s not men vs women, but rather men and women working together towards the common good.”

Ms. Candice C. Torres

A seasoned HR practitioner for 30 years, Candice Torres is currently the Director of HR & People Experience of Marie France Group of Companies. Now clocking four decades of proven expertise, the Marie France Group of Companies remains the leading provider of innovative slimming, skincare, and hair & scalp care solutions in the Philippines. Under the group’s umbrella are three of the most trusted names in the country: Marie France, Facial Care Centre, and Svenson.

More about Ms. Candice C. Torres.

1. Do we need more women in leadership roles?

“Definitely! We have witnessed a lot of women leaders globally who became successful and have their own share of significant and meaningful contributions in their own way; whether it be in business, politics, corporations, and a whole lot more. It has already been proven over time that women can wear different hats within their roles as business/career women, mothers, wives, daughters and friends, along with many other experiences. These help women leaders quickly adjust to new situations and focus on finding solutions to real-life work issues. Hence, making them effective in their leadership roles.”

2. How can men contribute to women’s empowerment in the home and in society?

“Men play a major role in women empowerment. Boys from a young age must be taught to view women not as competitors but rather as people with whom they can collaborate with to achieve a common goal.  When men are involved, they will be well aware that it is not a competition but just a need to remove the stigma and cultural beliefs where women are perceived as a homemaker who should always remain at home.   There is also a need to continuously empower men to challenge prevailing norms and change their behaviors.”

3. How can you contribute your wisdom, expertise or ideas to empower women?

“I am grateful to be part of a female-dominated organization which aims to empower women by helping them become a better version of themselves. I am equally proud of our strong talent pool of female team members who have stepped up to various opportunities and shaped successful career paths within our organization.  Being in the Human Resources (HR) role for almost 30 years allowed me to empower women in my own way by further honing our female employees to become “purpose driven” individuals. This can be achieved by creating personalized, authentic and motivating programs which will in turn translate into a positive employee experience that will further develop our female talents in a holistic manner.”

4. What does International Women's Day mean today?

“International Women’s Day is a day celebrating and honoring the socio-economic, political and cultural achievements of women.

Nowadays, women have their own equal footing in society. Gone are the days when women are just seen as the homemaker who should stay home to take care of her family and household the entire time. Women have proved that we are capable of more — and that we have been transcending boundaries not only for years, but for centuries. Society has changed over time and it is the perfect time to embrace this change and make the best out of it. “

We would like to extend our deepest gratitudes to these inspiring women for taking their time to share their insights on women empowerment, equality, and women's rights in hopes to spread awareness and break the bias in light of International Women's Month.

Take a step forward to end gender bias and discrimination by celebrating each other and their achievements regardless of their gender. People are more than their gender and must be acknowledged based on their strengths and capabilities.

Happy International Women's Month! From PropertyAccess.