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Who’s That Girl? Meet These Filipina CEOs Behind Your Favorite Brands

Behind every successful brand is, you guessed it, a woman.

Many companies and industries are now led by women–leaders who worked their way to the top through hard work and determination. For many of them, however, the road to success wasn’t always smooth and straight. As with any journey, they also encountered roadblocks, detours, and setbacks throughout their careers. But just like you, they had goals and dreams, not necessarily to be CEO’s, but to create positive change and to do something that matters.

Empowering Filipina women 

The World Economic Forum monitors gender parity in the workplace every year. In the 2020 report, the Philippines ranks as the second most gender-equal country in East Asia and the Pacific, next to New Zealand. That’s awesome news for young Filipinas today!

While we’re not stopping until every woman has equal opportunities to go after their dreams, we’ve got every reason to celebrate the milestones and accomplishments of Filipina women in their chosen field. 

In 2016, a group of 43 female CEOs in the country launched the Filipina CEO Circle for the same reason: to inspire, encourage, and empower young Filipinas today to maximize their potential in the business world. At para ipakita na if they can do it, kaya mo din! 

Here are some women leaders from the organization whose stories tell that women can climb the corporate ladder, too, in graceful strides of hard work, talent, and femininity.

Karrie Ilagan,  CISCO 

Whoever said women have no business with ‘tech stuff’ clearly haven’t heard of Karrie Ilagan. With over two decades of senior executive roles in multinational businesses, Karrie proves that women can thrive and tech girl power in male-dominated industries like technology. (Pun intended!) 

Prior to her current role as the country’s Managing Director at Cisco, a U.S.-based tech company responsible for your Webex video conferencing tool, she made history as the first Filipina managing director of another tech giant, Microsoft Philippines. Oh diba, panalo? 

Karrie’s advice for young people is simple: Be clear on what you want, build a plan, and work towards it. 

Are you also wired for the tech world? Check out these in-demand careers in the digital age! Baka makatulong sa planning mo. 

Maan Hontiveros, AirAsia Philippines

Media pioneer turned business executive Maan Hontiveros has probably done everything in her career except to settle. 

From her early days in broadcast television to her flight as the president and founding CEO of AirAsia Philippines, she has shown where fearless women who pursue their ambitions end up: on the top. 

Being the first-ever female CEO in the AirAsia network, her leadership attests that bringing a low-cost airline to greater heights does not ask for gender but fierce determination and passion for what you do. In Maan’s case, her love for travel! 

Ikaw, anong skills and interests mo? Identify and develop them, and let it take you to your dream destination (read: career).

Marife Zamora, Convergys Philippines

Even before business process outsourcing (BPO) jobs were a top career path for Filipinos, Marife Zamora was already in the business of growing the industry locally since 2003.

From setting up Convergys’ first contact center in the country to leading Concentrix towards becoming the Philippines’ largest private employer, she has been tirelessly working behind the scenes and loving it.

Apart from serving as chair of Convergys Philippines, Marife was also founding chair of Filipina CEO Circle and president of the Management Association of the Philippines.

How did she do it, you ask? Simple. She loves what she does, and she is not afraid to pursue her goals whatever it takes. Ikaw, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Maria Ressa, Rappler

“We will shine the light. We will hold the line.” Maria Ressa’s words have resonated with people from all over the world in her fight to speak for the truth. As an investigative journalist and founder of Rappler, Ressa continuously advocates for freedom of speech through news, technology, and public service.

Through achievements and challenges, Maria’s journalistic skill and resilience have enabled her to assume leadership in CNN & ABS-CBN, write books on pressing global issues, and spark a global movement for press freedom. She is a beacon of light, hope, and integrity to many – whose leadership shows that every person directly influences the world in their own way.

What will you hold the line for?

Vanee Gosiengfiao, Sanofi

The Filipinos’ access to quality consumer healthcare is relevant now more than ever. For leaders like Vanee Gosiengfiao (General Manager of Consumer Healthcare, Sanofi Philippines), working in this industry is both a professional and personal endeavor.

After working at GSK Thailand, Vanee moved back to the Philippines in 2013. Throughout her career, she shares that her life and work have been driven by the purpose of enabling transformation; whether it be launching new nutritionals, developing international business strategies, or even developing meaningful relationships with others.

Apart from staying grounded in purpose, Vanee also emphasizes the need to surround oneself with a solid support system and take risks. Her resilience and values echo throughout everything she does – showing how women can be leaders in both work and life.

Christine Villongco, Zara

Christine Villongco, country manager of Inditex Group Philippines, has changed the game of the retail industry. Through years of senior management experience, Christine has dabbled in almost everything, from brand management and merchandising to marketing and financial profitability.

She is now at the helm of the Philippines’ business operations for well-known brands such as Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, Massimo Dutti, and Pull & Bear. Her management acumen clearly shows that exceptional leadership skills empower one to impact any space she chooses to be in.

Are you a budding business leader too?

Empowering Filipina students

Throughout the years, we’ve seen Filipina women take on the challenge, own their ambition and step up in leadership roles across different fields and career paths. Karrie Ilagan, Maan Hontiveros, Marife Zamora, Maria Ressa, Vanee Gosiengfiao, and Christine Villongco are just some of the women leaders who paved the way. Marami pang iba! 

If their stories encouraged you to work hard and pursue your dream career now, that’s great. But remember, you don’t have to wait to become CEO to maximize your potential. 

As a student, you can already start by flipping your notes in school, developing your hobbies and interests, and taking the subjects you’re interested in. After all, gender-equal workplaces thrive from gender-equal school environments. 

Meet more empowered women from the Filipina CEO Circle and get inspired with their stories. If you want more tips and advice, we’ve got you covered on the All Girls Corner at Edukasyon.ph!

References:

TIME. Madeleine Albright. (2019). Maria Ressa. Retrieved from https://time.com/collection/100-most-influential-people-2019/5567 672/maria-ressa/ 

Robert Walters. (n.d.). Women who inspire: 20 stories from across Asia. Retrieved from https://www.robertwalters.com.sg/content/dam/robert-walters/country/singapore/files/whitepapers/women-who-inspire-20-stories-from-across-asia.pdf

 

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