Financial stability and freedom are desirable and achievable goals for the modern Filipina, both in the city and the countryside.
In the recently concluded media roundtable #SHERules: Filipinas Who Change The Way We Do Business hosted by online financial marketplace eCompareMo.com, female experts in the fields of financial literacy, entrepreneurship and government programs expressed confidence that success isn’t just achievable for the Filipina entrepreneur but desirable for her, her loved ones and even the economy.
Financial literacy advocate Dr. Daniela Laurel, Vista Land and Lifescapes managing director Camille Villar and Trade assistant secretary Blesila Lantayona joined the discussion.
Laurel said women need to move from having financial freedom—having a source of active income and no debt—to financial stability, where they have active and passive income and are also able to invest in the future. This is a benefit that many women recognize that they can achieve by going into business.
“Women are better money managers than men, especially in tough times,” said Laurel, who is also a news anchor and segment producer at One News Network Philippines.
“We know how to sacrifice for the long haul, we know how to work hard and to reap the benefits and stability. In the long term, managing our finances empowers us, but it’s not just a money thing. The difference between us and men is that we also use money to nurture and mother,” she said.
Villar, the daughter of tycoon Manny Villar, spoke on the benefit of having a supportive environment and role models and changing the mindset of Filipina from “can’t do” to “can do”.
Villar said it was being immersed in the world of business at a young age, with both her parents working on building the family business that influenced her own thinking. She believes that businesses that nurture and support women can help change the workplace culture and allow women to have more confidence and excel.
“I’ve had the experience of being in a table with male CEOs and they look at me like I should be in the table of the wives. Or they ask me a question like, ‘What’s your favorite store?’ or ‘Where do you like to shop?’ [as if] I don’t manage my company,” said Villar.
“It’s something you have to overcome, and you just have to tell yourself that, ‘I’m going to prove them wrong. I belong here. I know just as much as all of them. I work hard and I know what I’m talking about’ and not to be intimidated and not allow preconceived notions or gender bias to hinder you from making your way to the top brass and managing your own company,” she said.
Lantayona said getting more women owning and running successful small and medium enterprises is the key to the country’s economic growth.
“Women play an important role in the Filipino economy. They make up 50 percent of the labor force,” she said.
“Entrepreneurship is the key to empowering women and making women contribute to a more inclusive and stable growth. As such, the Philippine government has developed measures to support women entering into business,” she said.
She shared some of the government initiatives that women seeking to get into business can take advantage. These include the Great Women Project, where the DTI works with women run businesses to help them enter the global market; the Shared Services Facilities program, where small and medium enterprises in the countryside can get access to free equipment; and the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pagasenso Microfinancing Program.
She also emphasized two projects in which countryside entrepreneurs—many who are women—can get the help they need to scale up their businesses and move beyond their localities. The Go Local program with major retailers helps products from countryside SMEs to be displayed and sold in local stores. The products are thus exposed to a wider market, and the SMEs can benefit from the retailer’s feedback on how to make the products more marketable.
There is also the Kapatid Mentoring Program, a 10-module course where countryside entrepreneurs can learn more about running a business—including marketing and financial literacy. The lecturers in this program are actually established entrepreneurs who mentor the participants and provide practical advice on growing one’s business.
“As we have seen and heard today, the three big barriers to female entrepreneurship are the mindset, access to financial information, and access to financing,” said Ched Limson, chief operating officer of eCompareMo.com.
Limson said while these barriers may be real, the stories and the lives lived by the guests at #SHERules prove they are not insurmountable.
“eCompareMo.com believes in the power of women and we are determined to do everything in our power to help the Filipina entrepreneur get access to not just the financial services they need, but also help improve financial literacy through events like SHE Rules,” said Limson.