A man on top of major management structures is a very common occurrence in the Philippines as in the rest of the world, but a woman in the same seat of power remains a rare feat for the estrogen-bearing gender.
While the country ranked ninth as the most gender-equal nation in the world in a recent study, but local research and auditing firm KPMG R.G. Manabat & Co. discovered in a separate survey that among the top 1,000 Filipino corporations, very few are led by women.
“Of that total, we contacted 770 companies and learned that only 68 are led by women. Clearly there is a need for more,” noted KPMG Vice Chairman Sharon Dayoan.
What Dayoan considered a disturbing statistic became the driving force for her and her co-Filipina chief executive officers to pursue an advocacy for the advancement of Filipinas up the corporate ladder. Thus, the Filipina CEO Circle (FCC) was born.
FCC Circle is a young organization formalized in 2015. With a current 43-strong membership, FCC hails women leaders from across a broad range of industries such as BPOs, financial institutions, health, airline, real estate, information technology, automotive and advertising, among others.
While there are many ways to get to the top of the the corporate world, FCC is focused in helping women to firstly find their place in their respective industries.
“An entrepreneur, a child of owner, a corporate woman—we each have our own challenges. I believe we live in an ecosystem where we support each other. But for us, we feel that nobody supports women to really help them rise from the ranks. There’s no other organization in the country today whose sole mission is to uplift and empower corporate women in the corporate world. We hope our stories can inspire them,” FCC President Cristina Concepcion told The Sunday Times Magazine during the organization’s formal launch at Shangri-La The Fort.
And inspire she certainly will for Concepcion is a rise-from-rank success story herself.
Trying her luck in the United States right after she graduated from the University of the Philippines, Concepcion started a career in New York as an assistant for one of the few female technology pioneers on Wall Street. With barely any knowledge in technology, she left her very first job 28 years later with extensive knowhow in the industry and now leads a domestic BPO company back on Philippine soil.
Concepcion’s story is what FCC would like for budding corporate women to emulate.
“We hope to encourage the next generation of Filipinas in the workplace to maximize their full potential. It’s our way of giving back, and hopefully by sharing our own experiences on the road to success, we can help other aspiring women leaders achieve their dream to reach the highest position in their respective companies. This was the inspiration when we first conceived the organization,” FCC founder and chair Marife Zamora intimated.
Over the past year, the FCC has seen to their goals by participating in the Legacies of Women Forum; supporting the Solar Lola Project of the Diwata-Women in Resource Development; and conducting “Inspired Conversations” at the BPO International’s Future Leaders Conference with IBM’s equality and women empowerment agenda during International Women’s Day, among others.
By far its most significant initiative is the forum “Inspired Conversations: From the NOW Gen to the NEXT Gen” in September, which had in attendance close to 1,000 women managers. The forum served as a bridge from one generation of CEOs to the next, with the all of their members sharing and exchanging their respective career experiences, besides 25 inspirational speakers who tackled relevant issues facing working women today.
Similarly, FCC launched their book entitled Inspired in the said forum.
Asked who they want the book to resonate to young corporate women, Concepcion replied, “We see these women at this point in their journey as CEOs but we really don’t know that there’s a far richer back story for each of them. We want to tell their stories, some of which are really rags-to-riches, so readers can understand what it took for these women to rise up the ranks and somehow imprint in themselves the kind of hard work and dedication these tremendous CEOs have carried from the very beginning.”
With a warm reception, FCC is thinking of making Inspired publicly available from its current status of exclusive distribution.