THE newly elected president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) is once more a woman, Madam Marife Butalid Zamora.
The Times yesterday published “Mapping the future of management in PH” – an interview with one of our country’s most experienced, talented and expert Filipino management figures. She has been the topmost boss as chairman of the largest private employer in our country, Convergys Philippines, and now her peers at the powerful MAP have elected her their president.
Butalid Zamora’s answers to interview questions posed by Arlo Custodio are valuable gems of human, management and governance wisdom. We are quoting some of them in this space so that Times readers, who might have missed yesterday’s actual interview article, can benefit from them.
Question: Is there something in a woman leader that differentiates her from a male counterpart?
Marife Butalid Zamora: Across all types of organizations and all leadership levels, there is no significant difference between male and female leaders. Perhaps it’s about time we all looked further than gender and concentrated instead on which skills make the best leaders—male or female. With the recent rise of transformational leadership and its emphasis on traditionally “feminine” traits like empathy, collaboration and emotional intelligence, could the expectations of female leaders be shifting? Of course, there is no universal rule. Different individuals are differently suited to different situations, and context is—as ever—king.
Q: Do you see more women leaders in the political arena, perhaps a third woman President of the country?
Zamora: I certainly hope that more and more women will take the top leadership posts in any field–-be it politics or otherwise. I believe that sex or gender should neither be a hindrance in, nor reason for, being selected to the top post. Leadership should be based on meritocracy, performance, track record. We are in the 21st century, and as more and more women get educated and empowered, anything is possible, and more and more glass ceilings will be broken. We are seeing women leaders in the political arena and a third woman President may still happen in my lifetime. I want the next generation to grow up thinking nothing is special at all about women wielding power.
Q: What qualities must a woman have in order for her to beat the men in the workplace, particularly in getting executive posts?
Zamora: Let me answer this in the context of working and competing with men. I am asked most often about this and let me share some tips. First, recognize your power and own it. If you were invited into that environment, that room, that conversation–then you deserve to be there. Never question it. Second, understand that you have the advantage. If you are the only woman there, then everybody notices you and everybody is listening to what you will say. You don’t have to fight for airtime. That said, you better make sure you are prepared to deliver. Third, invest in relationships. In fact, just when you think you need to pull back and focus on the work is when you should push and put yourself forward. People are held back not because of the work they did but because of the lack of relationships with people who can speak on their behalf when they are not in the room and help them move forward. Remember that everything that happens in your career happens without you there. It’s decided when the management committee does a reválida of people’s performance or in the boardroom when the directors approve the new organizational structure.
The argument that women might be better leaders than men overemphasizes feminine relationship-building skills to the exclusion of masculine competitive instincts. As with most either-or pendulum swings, the truth falls somewhere in the middle.
In any case, this issue should focus not on men versus women, but on organizational culture. At that level, a mixture of feminine and masculine traits is required.
Regardless of whether more women make it to the top, there is now more emphasis on relationship skills, emotional intelligence, the ability to nurture talent, listening skills, collaboration, and partnership. These skills are essential for success for both male and female executives.