The Manila Times: Empowered Women Share Journeys at Times Forum



FIVE empowered Filipinas who navigated different paths and have hurdled different obstacles to earn their rightful place under the sun gathered on Tuesday to share their inspiring stories in The Manila Times' "Women Making A Change For Women" forum.

PBA party-list Rep. Margarita Nograles, Maria Victoria Españo, Nikki Tang, Jenny Lin Maaño-Ngai and Agnes Gervacio — women from different fields with different backgrounds — gave a glimpse of how they were able to show the world that they, too, can be achievers and power movers, and command as much authority as the men.

Nograles, for one, turned her painful experience of being bullied growing up into motivation to better herself and be an advocate not just for women's rights but for the rights of every Filipino she serves, being an elected official.

"Sadly, those bullies were also women. And that's when I had a different definition of women empowerment," the congresswoman said, noting how it gave her the realization that being brave or strong does not mean one has to take advantage of others' weaknesses.

"Empowered women should not be empowered as a sole individual. That is not enough. Empowered women should empower other women and help other women find their strength, courage and passion," she added.

Among them are proposed laws against bullying, expansion of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children law and more benefits for and the protection of the rights of women in sports and the arts.

"Malayo na tayo, pero malayo pa rin tayo (We've come so far, but we still have a long way to go)," she said while also reminding Filipinas that they can succeed in anything they pour their heart and soul into because "hindi ka babae lang (you are more than just a woman)."

Tang, the "beauty-preneur" CEO of DMark Beauty and DermAsia Corp., meanwhile, said while aesthetics also makes a woman, real beauty must come from within.

"When we look good, we feel good, and we do good. And when we exude confidence, it becomes very authentic for us to unleash our natural beauty and with that, we tend to chase our passion," she added.

"Beauty is power, it is important to have self-love. But, it is also important for you to uplift your mind with positive thoughts. It is important to embrace your individuality. Lastly, it is important that you know how to set boundaries. Learn to say no," Tang said.

Being beautiful must not also hinder a woman from exploring uncharted territory — even if it literally means going to far-flung places to seek out opportunities.

This was what made Sunsmart Solar Power Technologies Inc. co-founder and president Jenny Lin Maaño-Ngai thrive in the energy sector, being "one of the boys" in the renewable energy business.

"Each and every woman, you can become the best version of yourself if you only open up to all the possibilities... I am not an engineer, I have no engineering background. I am a business management graduate. As I went to far-flung communities as a woman, I am motivated by the challenges. I faced many challenges and setbacks especially in the energy field especially since there's a lot of competition," the former beauty queen and fashion model said.

"But I embraced every adventure," she added.

Gervacio, CEO of Connected Women, on the other hand, has worked and is still working with women who have dipped their hands into the digital landscape, and she beamed with pride that many of them do not have information technology degrees or diplomas from other courses to boast of.

In fact, some of the best artificial intelligence and digital annotators of Connected Women are wives of farmers and fishermen, women forced to drop out from school because of financial constraints, stay-at-home wives or single parents and others who had met hard times.

"Women, as soon as they're given the opportunity and the chance, they look at it not just as another gig, but a second chance in life. ... In the past six years, we have actually trained around 55,000 women in computer literacy and related subjects. And I am so inspired every time I think about this," Gervacio said.

"When you give women the opportunity, they perform," she added.

Españo, chairman and CEO of P&A Grant Thornton, is driven by the fact that more women are on top of the corporate ladder.

"Today, we see that investors, especially the venture capitalists, are looking for companies that have programs to support diversity and inclusion. Governments are also issuing new policies to support diversity," she said.

Españo noted "an increasing trend of female CEOs" as women in business have proven they can "be involved in different roles."