Here's Why Joining Women's Networks Can Help You In Your Career
Climbing the corporate ladder while juggling your home life can be taxing. But you need not do it alone. Here’s the lowdown on why you need a supportive network to help you achieve your professional goals and shatter that so-called glass ceiling
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap reports, the Philippines is among the top 10 most gender equal countries since 2006. But a closer look shows there’s much to improve on the gap for economic participation and opportunities. We may be making strides and equalizing our educational attainment with men, but it seems that a chunk of us opt not to work at a certain point in our lives.
There are a multitude of reasons that influence that statistic, and we don’t need to dive into research to know the common ones. Just look at what’s happening in your own office or your friends’ jobs. We lack women-oriented company policies and often have to fight for them; we’re expected to be nurturing or motherly and the counterpart of that is being labelled either bossy or emotional; and we deal with expectations on behavior and appearance, having to constantly watch our backs because victim-blaming is still prevalent. We have all these weighing on our shoulders as we climb the steep corporate ladder— just to be stopped by a glass ceiling.
We can only band together to help ourselves, and that’s exactly what professional women’s networks and groups are doing. With each tackling issues from individual growth, community building, to national policies, their successes show that we can influence change not only for personal career advancement but also for women economic empowerment as a whole.
Are you looking into joining one? Read on and learn more about them.
At The Core: What Women’s Networks Are All About
Under the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (AWEN) initiative, locally headed by the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PHILWEN), are the country’s top six women’s groups representing different sectors. These groups are united in common goals for the country and for southeast Asia, namely Women’s Business Council Philippines, Inc. (WomenBizPH), Filipina CEO Circle, Inc. (FCC), Women Corporate Directors Philippines (WCD), Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran, Inc. (SPARK), Business & Professional Women Makati (BPW), and Network for Enterprising Women (NEW).
AWEN was formed in 2007 and welcomed by ASEAN member states to “develop and propose initiatives to promote economic and trade activities in order to enhance gender equality, empower and strengthen entrepreneurship skills for women in ASEAN Community, create favorable environment for female-led enterprises, and support for women entrepreneurship in the region.” Taking the steering wheel for the country is PHILWEN and its Lead Convenor WomenBizPH.
In a feature published by Women’s Guide To Business, PHILWEN Chairperson Ma. Aurora Geotina-Garcia said that the cooperation of different organizations means utilizing their individual strengths to contribute to policies that influence economic empowerment and push for business-focused solutions in government agencies.
With that tall order, each group is first and foremost a place for camaraderie where one can find strength and support for concerns. These range from regular meet ups with the purpose of sharing and networking; workshops on training and development; forums to involve different sectors and students; to conferences that cover topics on raising awareness, new policies, and educational platforms.
BPW & NEW: Developing And Empowering The Person
Focusing on the individual’s growth, groups like NEW and BPW understand that there can’t be grandiose changes in the overall corporate landscape without tackling the individual. We often find ourselves exhausted from multitasking and juggling responsibilities, and even with problems as personal as those, these groups help you manage them through monthly meet-ups, mentorships, and group chats.
“What makes NEW different from other women entrepreneurs organization is its soul. The group goes beyond practical skills and knowledge. Members also share emotional support which really forms a unique sense of sisterhood and camaraderie among NEW members,” shared Koko Tamura, NEW member and Chief Operations Officer of Tui and Tamura, Inc.
NEW began as a Saturday meet-up group of founder Myren Garcia and her friends. As it expanded, it kept the same intimacy, and this gave birth to the NEW Biz Forums.
BPW is the Philippine chapter of the 90-year-old International Federation of Business and Professional Women. With that acclaim under their belt, and garnering veteran members from large businesses, it maintains its objective to reach out to the younger businesswomen and tackling their needs.
In an article by connectedwomen.co, BPW founding chair Delia Albert said, “There is a need for women in the Philippines to get connected to each other and the world. BPW is one of the few organizations which has survived for more than 90 years as a global forum for business and professional women. What’s in it for everybody? When you go out of the Philippines and you have a directory of the BPW, you can call on anyone and they will come see you. It’s a wonderful way to get linked, and more and more, the world is getting smaller and we all have to get connected.”
Bridging the seasoned with the next generation, BPW is more of a community that learn from each other than just the experienced ones mentoring the young. With intimate talks of about 25 persons or so, topics flow freely as they hash out discussions on work-life integration, women’s rights, financial planning, career transition, entrepreneurship, leadership, and community service. They also hold Night of Nothing gatherings that have no agenda except to connect.
FCC & WCD: Passing The Torch Through Community Building
“We were inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, through her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In the book, Sandberg shared that while there are a number of women in management positions, there are still very few women in CEO positions. This rang true to us here in the Philippines and it created in us a strong desire to find ways to support women in the corporate world and help them break the glass ceiling,” shared FCC Founding Member and President Sharon Dayoan, who is also the Chairman and CEO of KPMG R. G. Manabat & Co.
She further mentioned, “FCC is comprised of women who rose through the ranks via meritocracy to achieve CEO positions or its equivalent. In the Philippines today, no other organization exists whose core mission is to advance the status of women corporate leaders and move more of us into the top positions of corporations.” The support group helps its members expand their networks, but more than that, they are passionate about their advocacy of sharing knowledge and experience with high performing professionals from different Philippine companies. “We do this by hosting forums for professionals and students alike,” continued Dayoan.
FCC hosted yearly conferences that have grown to have 2,500 participants. “And because the group strongly upholds mentorship, we also tour campuses with our Inspired Conversations Campus Series to have dialogues with our young achievers with the hope that our stories will empower and inspire today’s youth to dream big and achieve great heights,” Dayoan said.
The international foundation WCD shares the same objective of increasing the representation of women on boards. With a powerful and trusted community of influential women leaders, they push the proven notion that corporations with a diverse population will outperform their competitors. Locally, WCD* conducts studies and holds trainings and conferences.
Globally, it has provided top-notch educational programming and resources for highly qualified board-ready women, best practice discussions for businesses, and published reports, news, podcasts, and videos for learning. WCD’s Chairman Emeritus Susan Stautberg, known to be an innovative and multi-dimensional business leader, has founded other similar groups that guide women into securing the positions of their dreams. Her advice to students and aspiring board members is quoted in a Forbes article, saying, “To make your way to the corner office, or wherever you want to be a success, build trust, deep relationships, and create your own networks that will help you along the way. You need to control your own destiny or someone else will.”
“To make your way to the corner office, or wherever you want to be a success,
build trust, deep relationships, and create your own networks that will help you along the way. You need to control your own destiny or someone else will.”
– Susan Stautberg, Chairman Emeritus, Women Corporate Directors
WomenBizPH and SPARK: Changing The Landscape That Affect Women On A National Scale
Tackling policies and actively participating in national discussions and international forums are groups like WomenBizPH and SPARK. Through large efforts, the doors that open trickle down to the very walls of your office, where mandates empower women to do and be more, thus compelling a culture where corporations benefit from and follow.
The primary goals of WomenBizPH are enhancing women’s access to finance and markets along with generating data and economic research that will lead to on business and entrepreneurship development. In an article for Women’s Guide to Business, WomenBizPH Chairperson Chiqui Escareal-Go, Mansmith and Fielders Inc.’s President and CEO, said, “Issues like violence against women and human trafficking can be solved if we provide economic empowerment. We are fighting for the women entrepreneurs at the micro, small, and medium enterprise level and formalizing mentorship.” It has become a successful platform that endorses solution-centric government policies to address women issues.
On the other hand, SPARK’s focus are gender and development (GAD), and women empowerment and entrepreneurship. Working with government agencies on GAD law mandates, SPARK makes sure that women are given equal participation and opportunities, even down to proper allocation of agency budgets. “Unfortunately, most government agencies don’t know what to do with the allotment and they are called out by the Commission on Audit for not using it properly or not at all,” said Founder and civil society personality Vicky Garchitorena in the March 2017 issue of Women’s Guide to Business feature. They have partnered with international funding agencies and local foundations on livelihood programs even for micro and small enterprises.
SPARK’s Likhang Pilipina in Ali Mall, Cubao is a retail outlet that carry such goods produced by Filipinas. With its success, doors open for women who have entrepreneurial dreams but are not equipped to achieve them. With each network’s strength contributing to the different journeys of a career woman, shattering the glass ceiling and challenging gender norms aren’t ambitious concepts to grasp anymore.
The benefits of joining one extend from simply networking, as Tamura related, “NEW gave me a platform to learn certain skills like accounting and best practices in business. It also gave me access to relevant people who became clients along the way. I can say that NEW has provided a significant contribution to the success of my business today, and as a bonus, aside from Myren, who is like an ‘ate’ to me, I was able to meet very nice and loving ladies within the NEW family.”
For seasoned businesswomen like Dayoan, the fellowship is as essential as the professional learnings. “Personal support has always been very important to us women. And it is reassuring to know that our fellow FCC members are just one call away when we need help. Being at the helm of top companies in our country, we believe that professional support in pushing for the importance of women leaders in organizations and the inspiration we draw from each of our challenges, some being more difficult than the others, are important for us to grow. With this sense of belongingness, you will never feel alone at the top.”
The basic requirements to join are a registered business with updated business permits and licenses, or being in a management to CEO-level position in a company that meets a certain amount of revenue yearly. Membership for groups like FCC, WomenBizPH, and WCD are by-invitation only, but their seminars and conferences are open to all.
Whether you’re just starting in your climb or you’re at the top of that proverbial corporate ladder, joining any of these groups will help you achieve your goals; it’s just a matter of recognizing your needs and what learnings you are after or contributions you’re willing to give. The greatest benefit of joining one is the movement it stands for that we all would want to back — closing the gender gap and achieving equality in the workplace.
*WCD’s local chapter is currently being reorganized.