*Copyrighted by Yan Abeledo
“Kababae mong tao, bakit ganyan ang ginagawa mo?”
“Sigurado ka ba dyan? Ayaw mo bang sa bahay ka na lang at mag-alaga ng bata?”
“Qualified ka ba para gawin yan?”
“Parang hindi mo naman kayang lumusong sa burak, bakit ka mag-business sa crabs?”
These are just some of the statements I’ve heard throughout my career―questions that my male peers did not have to answer. Our society has gone far in trying to achieve gender equality, and yet we still encounter many fields where if we wear a skirt or make-up or we menstruate, our value is viewed as inherently less than our counterparts.
The lack of gender equality in business and entrepreneurship is still a significant issue globally, although there have been some improvements over the years. Women, unfortunately, continue to face various obstacles and barriers that hinder our success in these fields.
Studies have shown that women entrepreneurs are underrepresented in the business world, and we often struggle to access funding, mentorship and networking opportunities compared to our male counterparts. This disparity can be attributed to cultural and social biases, a lack of role models and inadequate policies and regulations.
The Philippines is not that different. Despite being recognized as one of the most gender-equal countries in Asia, Filipina entrepreneurs still face many challenges. The 2020 report of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, for example, found that only 33.3 percent of early-stage entrepreneurs in the Philippines are women. This percentage is relatively low compared to other countries, indicating a significant gender gap in entrepreneurship.
Women entrepreneurs in the Philippines often struggle to access capital, technology and markets. And we still have cultural and social norms that place more value on men’s business leadership, and this contributes to the gender disparity in entrepreneurship in the country.
This doubt that we suffer–this incredulity–has made a lot of us work faster, work longer and work harder. But it still won’t surprise us if others raise an eyebrow over our accomplishments.
We grow thick skins, we compensate and we still manage to find joy and beauty in the lives that we live–as wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, or mothers, among other things. But we know we still have battles to fight–minds to teach, hearts to touch and lives to transform.
Now more than ever, we share in the hope that the next generation of young Filipinas won’t have to hear or answer these questions, and won’t have to see these raised eyebrows. We share in the hope that our youth will not be defeated by the very same society that is supposed to help and nurture them.
So, as graduates, we now stand firm in the belief that having more women in entrepreneurship and business is critical.
After all, we believe that women bring unique perspectives and approaches to business that can lead to innovation and increased competitiveness. Since women often face different challenges and opportunities in the business world, this can inspire new and creative solutions that benefit everyone.
We believe that more women in leadership roles can lead to more diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Diverse teams have been seen to be more effective and productive, and gender diversity in particular can improve a company’s financial performance.
And we believe that women entrepreneurs can serve as effective role models and mentors to other women and girls who aspire to succeed. By sharing our experiences and knowledge, we can help break down barriers and create a more supportive environment for women in entrepreneurship and business.
This huge challenge and responsibility are what makes programs like the “Academy for Women Entrepreneurs” truly important.
We need spaces where empowered women can empower other women.
We need spaces where allies can show us that the world is not against us.
Programs like the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs create safe spaces for us to make mistakes and learn without judgment, especially in the fields of entrepreneurship and business that are traditionally male-dominated.
In the past three months, we’ve learned about writing a business plan, creating a business pitch and learning better ways to manage our finances. But beyond this, we were given the opportunity to see that we, as women, can take up space even in places where women didn’t use to be. And with the help of the AWE and other programs like it, we will no longer just take up space but grow in order to help create more safe spaces for other women.
So it is my honor and privilege to thank our mentors, our speakers and our precious organizers on behalf of all our graduates.
The precious gift of knowledge that you shared will help us build a future of equality and equity for all. Because of the opportunity that you have given us, these are statements that we can now confidently use:
The author delivered this speech on behalf of the graduates of the 2023 Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (Manila) during their hybrid graduation on March 30, 2023. She is the founder of CrabTech Innovations and won Best Business Pitch of AWE Manila 2023. She can be reached at [email protected].
The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) aims to empower women to stir up their economic potential by providing them with quality training sessions facilitated by experts in the field of marketing, entrepreneurship, and business development. It is a partnership of the American Center Manila, Philippines, DLSU- RVRCOB, DTI-BSMED, AWE Manila Batch Hiraya and implemented by the American Corner (AC) Manila-DLSU Libraries.
The views expressed above are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the position of De La Salle University, its faculty and its administrators.